As a licensed dentist, you must follow all the rules and laws that apply to your profession. A complaint against your license can result in disciplinary proceedings against you, which can lead to negative repercussions for your license and your career. Therefore, if you find yourself in this situation, you should take steps to protect your license by enlisting the help of an experienced dental license defense lawyer.
The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE) is the state agency that licenses dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants. As a result, TSBDE also takes complaints about these professionals, investigates those complaints, and pursues disciplinary action where called for.
Initial Complaint Processing and Investigation
When TSBDE receives a complaint, it initially reviews the complaint to decide if it has jurisdiction over the dental professional who is the subject of the complaint. It also reviews whether it has jurisdiction over the allegations made by the complainant.
If TSBDE staff finds that the complaint contains insufficient information to determine jurisdiction or the validity of the allegations contained in the complaint, they will summarily dismiss the complaint. Likewise, if the complaint contains allegations or concerns an individual who falls outside of TSBDE jurisdiction, TSBDE staff will dismiss the complaint.
On the other hand, TSBDE staff also may find that although the complaint falls within TSBDE jurisdiction, it lacks sufficient information to proceed to full investigation. It is only if TSBDE staff determines that the agency has jurisdiction over the subject of the complaint and the allegations in the complaint, as well as sufficient evidence to continue, that the complaint will move forward to a full investigation. At that point, the TSBDE Director or Director of Investigations will determine the next steps in the investigative process.
Full Investigation Procedures
Classification of Complaints
Once the Director decides to open a full investigation into a complaint, TSBDE staff categorizes the complaint into one of seven allegation categories under 22 Tex. Admin. Code §107.104, as follows:
- Standard of Care: failure to treat a patient according to the standard of care in the practice of dentistry or dental hygiene;
- Sanitation: failure to maintain the dental office in a sanitary condition;
- Dishonorable Conduct: unprofessional or dishonorable conduct;
- Administrative: failure to comply with administrative requirements of the Act or board rules;
- Business Promotion: failure to comply with the requirements of the Act or board rules relating to advertising and referral schemes;
- Practicing Dentistry without a license; or
- Non-compliance: failure to comply or timely comply with an Order or Remedial Plan issued by TSBDE.
Additionally, TSBDE staff will assign a priority rating to the complaint, in order of importance, as follows:
- Priority 1 includes allegations that require an expedited investigation or consideration of temporary suspension of license of permits.
- Priority 2 includes allegations that require an expedited investigation.
- Priority 3 includes investigations that require a standard investigation.
However, TSBDE staff can change the priority rating of a complaint at any point during an investigation, as warranted.
The Investigative Process
A complaint referred for full investigation will be assigned to TSBDE staff, who will notify both the complaining party and the license holder of the opening of a full investigation of the complaint. These staff members can gather all evidence necessary to determine whether the license holder violated a law or rule that governs their profession. Evidence might include interviews with witnesses, including the professional who is the subject of the complaint, as well as documentary evidence, such as patient records or billing records. The investigator also can engage in any other necessary investigatory activities to complete the investigation, including referring the complaint to a panel of experts for review. All investigatory activities will focus on deciding whether the professional in question violated a rule or law that pertains to the dental profession.
Provision of Records During an Investigation
Furthermore, under 22 Tex. Admin. Code §107.105, a custodian of records shall provide dental or other records to TSBDE upon request, and must do so immediately if required by the urgency of the situation or if there is a danger of loss, damage, or destruction. License holders must respond to all written TSBDE requests for information within ten days of receipt, and can be subject to administrative, civil, and criminal penalties, as well as disciplinary actions, if they do not comply with these requests in conjunction with an investigation.
The Dental Review Panel
Under 22 Tex. Admin. Code §107.107, if a preliminary investigation reveals probable cause that a license holder’s action fell below the minimum standard of care, a panel of two to three experts from the Dental Review Panel shall review all relevant evidence during the full investigation. The Dental Review Panel consists of dentists and dental hygienists appointed by TSBDE to assist with complaints and investigations into the professional competency of license holders. The Dental Review Panel experts reviewing a complaint during an investigation then prepare an agreed-upon written determination as to whether the license holder violated the standard of care.
Find Out More About How to Best Handle Your Disciplinary Proceedings
We want to help put you in the best position to protect your dental license. As a result, you need immediate legal representation to defend your license from these potentially severe consequences. At Bertolino LLP, experienced dental license defense services for those facing disciplinary action. Contact us today by calling (512) 515-9518 or contacting us online. We can analyze the circumstances that led to the complaint against you and determine the right legal strategy for you.