All dental professionals take an oath to provide the best, most honest, and most comprehensive care to each patient who comes through the door. Every dental appointment opens the door to potential legal ramifications if a patient feels their dental professional works in an unethical manner, which leaves professionals at risk of losing their dental license. When a dental professional is accused of being unethical or unprofessional in the office, it opens the door to a myriad of legal issues that require the assistance of an experienced dental license defense attorney.
How Complaints Work
Every state is different, but most states require any complaint filed against a dental professional goes through the Dental Board in the state where the professional is licensed. The Board reviews the complaint to verify the veracity of the complaint as well as the person issuing the complaint. All dental professionals undergoing investigation by the board as the result of a complaint receive notification of the investigation immediately. This allows the professional a chance to obtain legal counsel for the ongoing investigation.
The most common complaints filed against dental professionals across the country include the following:
– Drug abuse
– Alcohol abuse
– Gross negligence
– Criminal activity
– Gross ineptitude
Anyone with any contact with the licensed dental professionals in any office have a legal right to file a complaint with the state board if they suspect a dental professional is not adhering to the ethical and/or legal requirements of the profession. This includes patients, family members of patients, employees, suppliers, and even health-care providers who work with the office and the professionals employed in the office.
What Happens During Investigation
The opening of an investigation against a dental professional doesn’t automatically mean the professional will lose his or her license. It means an investigation is performed to determine the accuracy and truth of the investigation. It’s not always damaging to the professional as not all investigations show the professional is doing anything wrong. However, being investigated for any misconduct in the office is devastating to anyone with a dental license. A dental license defense attorney works to disprove the complaints filed against a particular professional to reduce the risk of their license being either suspended or revoked at the end of the investigation.
The risks associated with a complaint and investigation of this nature include a dental professional’s license being revoked, which affects his or her entire livelihood. Now is not the time to forgo legal assistance. The investigation is broken down into two parts.
1. Inspection: When a complaint is filed against a dental professional, it’s forwarded to inspectors within the state’s Dental Board. Inspectors perform a thorough inspection of the facility in which the dental professional works as a way of ensuring that the equipment is up-to-date and in working order, hygienic practices are being met, and whether conditions in and around the office are hazardous or harmful in any way. If the inspectors find the facility is not adhering to basic laws, fines are issued, the dental professional has to pay them, and the conditions found unsatisfactory must be handled or the office faces further legal issues.
2. Investigation: This only occurs if a dental professional is accused of criminal activity. When this type of complaint is filed, investigators comb through every piece of available information provided to the board, as well as any information the office and the dental professional has anything to do with. Guilty parties are then reported to the local District Attorney so the state can begin preparing for a case.
Following guilt on any level, dental professionals are placed on a period of probation that prohibits them from using their dental license in any legal capacity. As the investigation continues, charges are filed, and a judge makes a final decision, it could mean revocation of a license. This means the party in question loses his or her dental license and is no longer legal able to work in the same industry again. Notice of complaint against a dental professional is the time when it’s appropriate to seek legal counsel to protect future lifestyles, work, and life for the accused party.
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Working as a dentist in Houston requires the same education and certification as dentists everywhere are required to obtain. It takes years of education, tens of thousands of dollars in education costs, and no one can practice any dental profession in Houston without a license from the State of Texas. It’s a long road for dentists to receive that license, and losing it isn’t an option. However, there are thousands of complaints filed through the Texas State Board of Dental Examiner’s Enforcement Division every year. Most are deemed unworthy of investigation, but many do result in investigation. If you’re under investigation by the board, you could lose your license.
What Constitutes an Investigation?
Not every complaint that goes through the board is worth investigating. Unless the complaint contains a broken law or unethical practice, it’s not pursued. Many things dentists are accused of are worth investigating, as all dentists in Houston are required to meet a specific standard of care and expectation. They took an oath with their licensure, and it’s one they must uphold at all times. Any dentist accused of the following is going to become the subject of a board investigation:
– Sexual misconduct
– Violation of standard of care
– Professional misconduct
– Inappropriate prescription issuing
– Not keeping adequate records
– Not paying fees
– Criminal conviction
– Substance abuse
Any dentist who is accused of any of the above-mentioned violations has the right to obtain legal counsel. It’s imperative dentists call an experienced attorney who can help them maintain the good and current standing of their professional license.
Innocence is usually easy to prove, and a dentist’s investigation is wrapped up and nothing happens to their license. However, sometimes a dentist is found guilty of one of these violations. Not all result in the loss of a license, but many do. There are also other penalties associated with violating these laws and ethics.
1. Fines: Any dentist who violates any of the laws in place for dental professionals in Texas is subject to pay fines. The amount of the fine is determined by the severity of the crime, and the type of the crime committed.
2. Restitution: If a dentist is accused of defrauding patients through improper billing or even performing procedures they don’t need to make more money, they are going to pay that money back. This also applies when the fraud is aimed at the insurance company patients use.
3. Jail Time: If a dentist is accused of a crime that has a potential prison term, they could be sentenced to time behind bars. The length of time depends on the type of offense, and it depends on how many counts of that offense the dentist is found guilty of committing.
4. Probation: The State Board recognizes dentists aren’t perfect and are human. Probation is a common disciplinary action for anyone who is accused of substance abuse issues. This gives the dentist time to seek rehabilitation, complete a mandatory program, perhaps complete volunteer hours, and submit to regular drug and/or alcohol testing before their license is reinstated.
Administrative sanctions are important to understand. Many times when a patient accuses a dentist of fraud, it’s not through his own fault. The administrative team is in charge of billing, and making mistakes could cost the dental professional in charge. This charge could result in a letter of reprimand or even fines for not paying closer attention to the administrative detail of the inner workings of the office.
The first step with any investigation is notification for the dentist accused. It’s recommended no dentist responds to any investigation without first consulting an experienced dental license defense attorney. Any information submitted with the response is considered evidence, and dentists aren’t law professionals.
With the response, attorneys suggest their dental clients submit proof they did nothing wrong. It’s best to step back and allow the attorney to handle the discussions with the board as they are familiar with the law. Being cooperative is important, but knowing the legalities involved in this type of situation is even more important.
Becoming a dentist takes years of education, hard work, and dedication to earn your license to practice dentistry. It takes only one accusation of wrongdoing to have your license revoked. Losing your dental license because an upset patient attacks your credibility and makes false accusations to get out of paying a bill or handling their responsibilities is overwhelming, but there is something you can do about it. Dental license defense attorneys work to help you keep your license when it’s in jeopardy. There could be any number of reasons your license is being questioned and at risk for being revoked, and a dental defense attorney is here to help.
– Failure to maintain proper client records
– Criminal conduct
– Practicing while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol
– Alcohol and drug abuse outside the workplace
– Abuse of patients
– Professional duties performed by staff not authorized to perform such duties
– Practicing beyond realm of licensing
These are just a few of the most common causes of complaint by customers or even staff against dentists with licenses. Anyone holding a dental license is required to practice within the scope of not only the law, but the license requirements they hold. When a complaint is filed by someone in your office or a patient, the Dental Board in your state is going to open an investigation to determine whether or not there is any basis to the accusations made against the license-holder.
Fight for Your License
When a complaint is made, you are not destined to have your license revoked. You have rights, and you have the chance to prove the claims are false or unjust. When a complaint is made against you or your practice, the Dental Board in your state takes it upon themselves to open up an investigation. During this investigation, the board collects evidence, asks questions, and demands paperwork and other items to help with their case.
It’s your job to comply with the terms of the investigation without putting yourself in further danger of losing your license. Your rights are at stake, as is the future of your hard-earned career. Dental License Defense attorneys work for you to ensure your rights are upheld, you do what is required of you without doing anything extra, and you keep yourself safe from further incrimination or suspected fraud. The law is complex and anything but black and white, which means legal representation is necessary. No one without a legal representative stands a chance of defending him or herself in a court of law should it become necessary. Legal counsel makes it possible to win your case and keep your license.
The biggest question many dental license holders have is whether or not they should hire a dental license defense attorney. The answer is simple. If you have been accused of wrongdoing and your license is being investigated, it’s time to hire a dental license defense attorney to work for you and your rights.
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