Defending Dental Hygienist Criminal Complaints
The majority of investigations by the Dental Hygiene Committee of Texas begin with a customer complaint. However, surveillance operations, criminal conviction referrals, and criminal investigations are all used by the Dental Hygiene Committee of Texas when making a licensing decision. Investigators are used by the Texas Dental Hygiene Committee to undertake non-criminal investigations.
Investigators are also employed by the Texas Board of Dental Examiners to conduct criminal investigations into Dental Hygienists before they are licensed and when a complaint is filed against them. These professionals look into infractions of criminal and administrative laws. Administrative law due process rights differ significantly from criminal law due process rights.
It is critical to have an attorney who is familiar with the disciplinary process of the Dental Hygiene Committee of California. The Board has numerous choices following the conclusion of an investigation by the Dental Hygiene Committee of California. The Board has the option of dismissing the complaint. A Citation may be issued by the Board.
The Board can potentially send the case to the Attorney General’s Office of Texas. Their office will evaluate whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a formal disciplinary complaint. The Board may submit a case to the District Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution if it involves criminal activity.
Complaint Process Against Dental Hygienists in Texas
Licensed dentists, dental hygienists, registered dental assistants, and dental laboratories are all regulated by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE). Complaints about quality of care, sanitation breaches, professional conduct difficulties, and issues like patient abandonment or failure to follow TSBDE laws and regulations are investigated by the agency. Local law enforcement is also assisted by the agency in the investigation of charges of practicing without a license. Fee issues are outside the scope of the TSBDE’s competence.
Beyond the actual out-of-pocket expenses incurred during treatment, the Board cannot mandate a licensee to pay damages or compensation to a complainant. Only in exceptional cases, such as where treatment fell below the standard of care, can restitution be required. Complainants seeking damages or restitution for non-standard of care violations should get legal advice to determine the proper venue to pursue such claims.
At least quarterly, complainants will be notified in writing of the case status. Any final action taken on a complaint is also communicated to the complainant.
All complaints filed to the TSBDE must be assessed to see if the claim is under the agency’s authority and if there is enough material to launch an inquiry. The complaint intake evaluation will be sped up if you provide accurate and complete information.
Complaint Resolution Process
The provisions set out in Title 22, Part 5, Chapter 107, Subchapter B, 107.100 through 107.109 of the Texas Administrative Code govern complaints filed with the Texas Dental Board against a dentist, dental hygienist, dental assistant, dental lab, or mobile dentistry business.
When the agency receives a complaint, it conducts a preliminary investigation. At this point, there are three preliminary decisions to be made:
- How does the Texas Dental Board evaluate whether it has “jurisdiction” over certain allegations?
- Does the licensee’s continued practice pose a clear, imminent, or persistent threat to a person’s physical health or well-being?
- Is there sufficient probable cause to open an official investigation into the subject of the complaint?
Once the board comes to their decision on those three questions, they will either dismiss for no cause or no jurisdiction or move on with the investigation for cause.
Finding Out the Results
The Board will notify both the individual or entity that filed the complaint and the licensee (respondent in the filed claim) that an official inquiry has begun if a complaint is decided to merit one. The Board may choose to send the complaint to a panel of experts for review, depending on the severity of the allegations. The following allegation categories are used to categorize official complaints:
- Administrative Issue
- Business Conduct and Advertisement
- Compliance Matters
- Licensing Issues
- Sanitation Practices
- Standard of Care
- Unethical Conduct
In addition to categorizing complaints into accusations categories, the Board staff will assign each complaint a “priority” classification based on the likelihood of harm.
Post Investigation and Disciplinary Actions
If the Dental Review Panel determines that the information and evidence gathered during the investigation are insufficient to show that a violation of the Dental Practice Act or a Board rule has occurred, the complaint will be dismissed, and the Board will be notified of the dismissal action at a public board meeting. When a complaint is dismissed in this way, both the person or entity who submitted the complaint and the licensee will get a letter informing them of the dismissal and the reasons for it.
If there is sufficient reason for cause into the investigation, then a hearing will likely be scheduled to go over the allegations. After that, if the board finds a reason to discipline the license, they will do so based on a variety of factors. The discipline can be more severe (a total loss of license) or less impactful (a simple fine) based on the severity of the allegations. If the licensee’s conduct induced harm to a patient, that would likely result in a loss or suspension of a license. However, if the license holder was found in violation of a board order or other misconduct, then a fine may be imposed or time to fix their actions.
The Board could issue and administer a non-disciplinary corrective plan to address the investigation of a complaint against a licensee in certain situations. Remedial or corrective plans are considered open to the public. A provision that revokes, suspends, or restricts an individual’s license or registration to practice dental hygiene cannot be included in a corrective plan. Furthermore, the licensee cannot be subjected to an administrative fine as part of remedial action.
Trust an Experienced Austin Dental Hygienist License Defense Lawyer
Dental hygienists in Texas are regulated by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. The Board also investigates allegations and offenses that could derail your career, including:
- Breaches of patient confidentiality
- Failure to meet established dental standards of care
- Failure to follow established safety protocols to guard against infection
- Performing duties that are inappropriate for your level of licensing (for instance, procedures that should be performed by a dentist rather than a hygienist)
- Being convicted of certain criminal offenses
If you are facing a Board investigation, you need to take it very seriously from the start. There are strict deadlines, and how you respond to an allegation can make or break your career. Consulting with an experienced attorney as soon as possible is your best bet to protect your license – and your livelihood.