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Dentists and dental hygienists are required to complete a specific level of schooling, as well as obtain a state license issuing them permission to work in the dental field in New Jersey. This license enables a dental professional the credentials required to obtain work as well as requires the professional to take an oath. This oath is to keep the patients in their care safe, to behave to a certain degree of expectation, and to uphold the law both in and out of the dental office. The majority of dental professionals do this without issue, but that doesn’t stop disgruntled and mistaken patients, employees, and vendors from filing formal complaints with the state board.
When a formal complaint is filed against a dental professional in New Jersey, an investigation is opened. Most of the complaints filed against dental professionals are similar, because they have to break the law and the ethical boundaries of the dental field.
– Sexual misconduct
– Substance abuse
– Insurance fraud
– Criminal conviction
– Professional misconduct
Immediately following the validity of a complaint by the New Jersey Medical Board, a notice is sent to the dental professional outlining the complaint and what’s to come. Not all dental complaints make it back to the dental professional. Thousands are received all the time, and most are discarded when they are not found to violate any legal or ethical laws. When notice is given to the dental professional, it means the board has determined this complaint of a legal or ethical concern to the patient as well as the dental professional. There could be notification that a dental professional’s license will be suspended during the time the investigation is ongoing.
The notification requires response, and it’s imperative no dental professional responds to a complaint investigation notice without consulting with a dental license defense attorney first. The process can be long and complicated and in addition to a formal investigation, it also includes a professional license review, settlement offer, and/or criminal charges depending on the outcome.
Each level of discipline varies based on the crime, the number of counts committed, and the situation. Insurance fraud, for example, falls under federal law in addition to state law. This could include prison time of at least five years per count, and finds of at least $10,000 per count. However, it might only include administrative sanctions if the dental professional is found innocent but the dental office is found guilty of attempting to defraud insurance companies for profit.
A criminal conviction that has nothing to do with the dental professional’s business life could result in permanent license loss. If a dental professional is convicted of a felony such as murder, they will not work again as a dental professional. Other crimes are sometimes smaller and result in a period of probation and reinstatement of a professional license following alcohol or drug abuse rehab or something of that nature.
In other cases, the patient who filed the formal complaint wants nothing more than a settlement from the dental office, and they’re happy to drop their charges when a settlement offer meets their expectations. The board might still issue a citation, warning, or reprimand letter as a result, but charges are dropped nonetheless.
Potential disciplinary actions for cases that aren’t settled might include:
– Fines beginning at $10,000 per count and upwards of $500,000 total
– Prison time beginning at 5 years minimum per count and potentially going into lifetime prison sentences depending on the number of counts a dental professional is found guilty of committing
– Restitution for any money stolen from a patient or insurance company as a result of fraud in the amount stolen plus fees and additional restitution for pain and suffering caused
It’s imperative all dental professionals being legally investigated by the medical board call an experienced attorney today. This might be the only way to ensure a fair investigation and rightful outcome. Dental license defense attorneys spend ample time working with dental professionals and these cases, and they understand the intricate knowledge of the law and the ins and outs of dental ethics as a result of working for these clients for so long.