Dentists, dental assistants, and dental hygienists in California play an important role in preserving and restoring the oral health of residents. For these professionals, it’s all about making teeth last and maintaining that smile with the latest dental technologies and treatments. It takes years of schooling, significant effort, and substantial financial investments for dental professionals to develop their skills and achieve licensure. What’s more, the Dental Board of California and the Dental Hygiene Board of California put license applicants through a rigorous and expensive process in order to ensure that the care of dental patients is trusted to qualified candidates. However, the license comes with the requirements to adhere to rigorous professional standards of care. These rules and regulations are in place to protect your patients as well as the rights of dentists, dental assistants, and dental hygienists.
Your California dental license is,without doubt, one of your most valuable assets. When the Dental Board of California or Dental Hygiene Board of California investigates allegations of misconduct, you are at risk of losing your hard-earned dental license. In fact, it takes only a single complaint or mistake to have your license suspended or revoked. When your professional license is threatened with suspension, probation, or revocation, or when your application for licensure is rejected, your entire livelihood is also threatened. As such, you must act promptly to protect your license, your livelihood, and your future.
At San Diego License Attorney, we understand how confusing and intimidating professional license matters can be even to the well-educated healthcare professionals. We also understand the laws and regulations governing how complaints filed with the Dental Board of California are handled. We have a strong background in successfully representing dentists, dental assistants, and dental hygienists and helping them maintain their license and reputation. Our attorneys stand ready to defend you as well. Contact us anytime 24/7 at 619-728-7448 for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced San Diego license defense attorney.
Common Accusations Against Dental Licensees
A formal accusation served on a California dentist, dental assistant, or dental hygienist serves as notice that the board intends to revoke their dental license. The dental professional has 15 days from the date of service to file a Notice of Defense. Failure to observe this time limit will result in default against the dental professional, which leads to the immediate revocation of the license. An accusation, even if it seems less serious, can quickly spin out of control and cause great harm to your career. In many cases, professionals are able to reach a settlement agreement(stipulated agreement) with the Dental Board of California and the Attorney General’s Office. If an agreement can’t be reached, the parties involved will proceed to a formal hearing.
Some of the most common accusations a dental practitioner may face include:
- Using false or misleading advertising to gain clients
- Accepting rebates to prescribe or use certain drugs, dental equipment, or dental appliances
- Keeping false, misleading, or inaccurate records
- Failing to report the death of a patient who was in your care
- Failure to pay the previously issued citation
- Failure to use a Fail-Safe Machine
- Abandonment of a patient
- Performing dental care with negligence, gross negligence, or incompetence
- Administering excessive prescriptions or treatments
- Failure to unveil information linked to a patient referrals service
- Keeping the dental office in unsanitary conditions
- Use of drugs or alcohol causing danger to a patient
- Dealing in a controlled substance or illegally prescribing drugs
- Aiding or abetting unlicensed practice of dentistry
- Altering patients records
- Sexual misconduct or abuse against a patient or staff member
- Refusing to give care to a patient in need
- All forms of insurance fraud
- Unlawful referrals
- Having a physical or mental illness that prevents you from safely performing your duties
- Performing procedures outside of the limits of your license and/or expertise
- Administering sedation or anesthesia without a license to do so
- Failing to give refunds for over-payments made by clients or their insurance providers
- Harassing or threatening former patients and colleagues to prevent them from making a complaint or testifying against you
- Advertising guaranteed dental service
- Conviction of a criminal offense
The list only covers some of the possible violations but serves as a clear indication that there’s a diverse range of complaints that can be brought against dental practitioners. The legal team at San Diego License Attorney has a deep understanding of the nature of these charges and how to tackle them in each scenario.
The Role of Negligence in Professional License Cases
Most of the complaints filed against dental professionals revolve around negligence. This means that the person (or patient) filing the complaint feels that the dental practitioner owed them a duty of care but breached it, causing injury. The goal of filing a complaint is to tell the Board that the dentist, dental assistant, or dental hygienist failed to abide by the standards and did not provide the expected quality of care. The petitioner can seek compensation and can also make a move to convince the Board to stop the dental professional from practicing.
After a complaint is filed against a dental professional, the Licensing Board will evaluate the complaint and take action if the complaint is justified. The Board members will evaluate the alleged misconduct or injury to determine the validity of a complaint. Typically, a dentist, dental assistant, or dental hygienist is held liable if the error would not have happened if the practitioner was ‘reasonable and diligent.’
However, as with any other legal case, the evidence is highly paramount and the main driver of success in professional license defense cases. It’s common for individuals who file complaints against dental professionals to keep a record of all events as they occur, including the dental care provided, persisting symptoms, injuries suffered, and therapy recommended. Your healthcare professional defense license attorney will go through this information in an effort to prove that the allegations against may be wrong or misunderstood. When building a case, facts that must be proven include:
- The existence of a dentist-patient relationship
- The standard of care owed to the patient
- The manner in which the standard of care was breached
- The nature and extent of the injury sustained due to the breach of care
While some dental misconduct cases are settled amicably, some could lead to the revocation of the dental practitioner’s license. It all depends on the circumstances of a case. Some of the complaints can be easily handled by a license defense attorney if they lack enough evidence to support suspension or revocation.
Effects of Criminal Convictions on a California Dental License
Licensed dental professionals in California can be disciplined for criminal convictions. The Dental Board of California and the Dental Hygiene Board of California can discipline a dentist, dental assistant, and dental hygienist for criminal convictions that are significantly related to the qualifications, duties, and functions of the dental practitioner. The Boards also investigate criminal conduct by dental professionals in the course and scope of their practice.
Some of the most common criminal offenses that can attract dental license discipline include:
- Domestic violence
- Insurance fraud
- Medicare fraud
- Medi-Cal fraud
- Diverting a controlled substance
- Sex Offenses
- Prescription Pill Fraud (Pill Mill)
- Workers Compensation fraud
The Dental Board of California may seek a California Penal Code Section 23 Order against a dental practitioner involved in a serious criminal case. A California Penal Code Section 23 Order seeks to suspend the professional license in court. This means that the licensing board can appear in court and recommend disciplinary action regarding your license if it’s significantly related to the allegations against you. If you’ve been charged or convicted of a criminal offense, it important to retain an experienced San Diego License Attorney for representation in disciplinary proceedings before the Dental Board of California or the Dental Hygiene Board of California.
Investigations by the California Dental Licensing Boards
Most of the investigations by the Dental Board/Dental Hygiene of California start with the filing of a consumer accusation. Conversely, investigations conducted by these boards also happen through sting operations, criminal investigations, and criminal conviction referrals. The boards use non-sworn civilian investigators for non-criminal cases. The California Department of Consumers Affairs, on the other hand, uses sworn Peace Officer Investigators for criminal investigations against dental professionals. The employees primarily investigate administrative and criminal law violations. It’s worth noting that there is a significant difference between Administrative Law Due Process Rights and Criminal Law Due Process Rights.
The board has several options at the conclusion of an investigation. The Board may opt to:
- Close the complaint,
- Issue a citation,
- Refer the matter to the California Attorney General’s Office, or
- Refer the case to the District Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution (for cases involving criminal conduct). The office of the Attorney general will determine whether cause to file a formal disciplinary accusation exists.
Disciplinary Guidelines of the California Dental Board
The Dental Board of California issues a set of disciplinary guidelines used at administrative hearings that determine the outcome investigations initiated by the board. The Board makes it clear that it’s not “on your side, but its priority is looking out for the best interests of consumers and the general public. It’s not that the California Medical Board doesn’t care about you either, but they are primarily concerned with ensuring safe and competent dental services across the industry and not with your particular career.
While this is very important in protecting the health and wellbeing of the public, it’s also a concern that many accusations made against dentists and other dental workers are false, misleading exaggerated, and not relevant to the practitioner’s ability to execute his/her duties. Moreover, without the help of an experienced dental license defense attorney, important evidence, expert witnesses and mitigating factors may not be considered. At San Diego License Attorney, we are committed to ensuring that our clients get an aggressive and expert defense. We will not be intimidated by the board’s tendency to thoroughly dive into a case because they are so concerned with safety issues.
Disciplinary actions issued by the Dental Board of California vary depending on:
- The nature and severity of the violation
- What harm could have potentially resulted
- Whether the patient suffered any actual harm
- Aggravating and mitigating factors
- Any previous disciplinary actions on your professional record
- Evidence of rehabilitation
- If you’re currently facing one or numerous accusations
- The existence of a criminal record that significantly relates to your practice
Here are possible forms of professional discipline:
- Citation and fine - While this form of discipline is relatively minor, the public can view it on the California Dental Board’s website. This can jeopardize your prospects of gaining new clients, keeping your current clients, or obtaining future employment.
- Interim suspension - The board may suspend your license during the investigation if it feels you’re likely to engage in an unsafe act in the future. Moreover, keeping in mind that it may take months to years for an investigation to be completed, you cannot afford to risk this form of suspension. If possible, we can help you get an interim overturned to allow you to continue practicing.
- Public reprimand - This is only used in cases where the patient did not suffer any actual harm. While it does not include a fine, a public remand can also significantly affect your license and ability to gain clients or find employment.
- Probation - When a total victory isn’t attainable, it may be best to get a stay of revocation with probation. Having a license revocation stayed allows you to continue your practice, but with certain restrictions and probationary terms will apply.
- Suspension or Revocation - When charges against you are severe, or when you don’t take any step to challenge the accusation, it’s likely that your license will be suspended or revoked. Even so, San Diego License Attorney can still fight to have the length of license suspension reduced or have a revoked license reinstated.
Chemical Dependency Issues and the California Dental board Diversion Program
In some situations and based on eligibility criteria, the Dental Board of California offers a Diversion Program for Dentists, Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists whose ability to perform their duties may be impaired to the abuse of drug/alcohol. This program provides dental professionals with the chance to recover from their addiction without losing their professional license. The program provides access to proper intervention programs as well as treatment services. The purpose of this Diversion Program is to rehabilitate the licensee and protect the public.
The California Dental Board’s Diversion Program is a lengthy process that a person shouldn’t enter without careful thought and conversation with a seasoned attorney. Successful completion of the program comes with many benefits, but failure to strictly adhere to the rules may attract serious implications, including the commencement of disciplinary action.
There are those instances where it’s hard to prevent the board from taking some form of disciplinary action. In such cases, the best obtainable result may be a stay of the revocation, which allows you to continue practicing but with your dental license “on probation” may be the best available outcome. At times, the probation must be preceded by a short actual suspension period or a stipulation, such as drug rehabilitation. There are standard probationary terms that are applicable to all cases, and there are also those that apply to specific categories of violations.
Some of the conditions are negotiable, which can make your probation more bearable. For instance, whether or not you must do community service, have your practice supervised, or have your billing services monitored might depend on a plea deal reached with the prosecutors and approved by the Administrative Law Judge and the Dental Board.
Find a Dental License Defense Attorney Near Me
The experienced legal team at San Diego License Attorney has helped many dental professionals with allegations of misconduct. From the first consultation, our attorneys listen to your story and evaluate the best course of action, and develop a comprehensive strategy to protect your license and career. We take a proactive, understanding approach to any issues that may jeopardize your hard-earned California dental license. Based on your circumstance, the defense approach we may take may include:
- Contacting the Board’s investigators and offering mitigation evidence documents to contest the accusation against you
- Working with a standard of care expert to fight accusations of misconduct and negligence
- Hiring a defense investigator to interrogate any witnesses, protect computer metadata, issue a subpoena of pertinent records, and assess the scene or evidence and prepare a report for the defense
- If the chemical dependency is an issue, we can develop a rehabilitation plan, which may include chemical testing and psychological evaluation to rule out chemical dependency. If necessary, recommend professional counseling to address any substance abuse issues
- Working with rehabilitation experts to collect the necessary rehabilitation documents to prepare for an Administrative Hearing or strengthen a mitigation package.
- Developing a mental and emotional rehabilitation plan. Some things in life may affect a person mentally and emotionally, and in such instances, a professional doesn’t require discipline by the Dental Board of California. We believe the best thing they need is a referral to a therapist where they can lament, and come to terms with their emotional state and develop a strategy to restore and preserve their emotional welfare.
When a complaint has been filed against you with the California Dental Board, don’t go it alone. You need the strongest possible defense to protect your career and reputation.
To learn more about your rights or schedule a free consultation, please contact the San Diego License Attorney at 619-728-7448anytime 24/7.