Types of Dental License Complaints
The number of complaints filed with the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners has greatly increased over the past several years. These complaints include:
- Negligent quality of care
- Improper sanitation
- Professional misconduct
- Inadequate maintenance of patient charts and records
- Violations of Dental Practice Act
- Drug and alcohol abuse
Complaints can be filed by your patients, co-workers, peers, or the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. You may face fines and probation if you are found violating the state’s Dental Practice Act, and your license to practice can also be suspended or revoked altogether. With so much at stake, you must have an experienced defense attorney to protect your dental license.
Dental License Governing Body
The organization overseeing and controlling dentistry in the state is the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE), also known as the Texas Dental Board. Dental professionals and lay people make up the Board. The Texas Dental Board regulates individuals who work in the oral health field, such as dentists, hygienists, assistants, and those working in the labs.
Internal attorneys, an investigative team, and administrators implement tight regulations regularly to safeguard the general public’s health and safety. According to the agency’s enabling statute and guidelines, the agency investigates any complaints regarding licensees and resolves them.
Dental License Disciplinary Complaint Process
The first step is the complaint and origin of the complaint. There are numerous ways to file complaints against licensed dentists and other professionals in the dental field. Some of the parties who make complaints the most frequently are:
- Previous patients
- Patients’ families
- Insurance companies
- Former and present workers
- Law enforcement agencies
Depending on the type and seriousness of the problem, a complaint is often given a priority classification when it is received. If the Dental Board reasonably believes that a licensed dentist poses an immediate risk to the public’s health, the Board procedure can proceed swiftly.
The Beginning of the Investigation
Typically, an investigation is launched by a board complaint or as a result of an audit or inspection by the board. The allegation or concern that has been launched is provided to the licensee through a notice letter. This letter typically outlines the essential concerns and requests a prompt response by a given date.
The agency employees will pursue the subject more vigorously if no response is received by the deadline. It is critical to respond promptly and thoughtfully to demonstrate compliance and to present an argument clearly and convincingly.
Investigations Into Dental License Complaints
The agency might drop the complaint for lack of evidence after the licensee (or their counsel) has responded to the notice letter. If issues remain after the initial letter’s answer, the agency will investigate the case more thoroughly. During the investigation, the agency personnel will normally request records and case-related papers and may request a face-to-face or telephone interview.
Although there are different deadlines, a licensee should anticipate having only two to three weeks to submit their paperwork. At this point, seeking representation from a Texas dental license defense attorney is advised. Experienced attorneys can analyze the case papers to determine whether they should be dismissed or moved forward.
The licensee will receive written notification from the court dismissing the case. The case is normally scheduled for an Informal Settlement Conference and potential hearing if it is not dismissed.
Informal Settlement Conference
The agency will inform the licensee in writing that they have called an informal settlement conference if it appears that there has been a breach or issue with their practice. In their assessment, there is merit to the complaint, and the licensee’s license could be revoked or suspended. Although notice periods can be brief, the licensee typically has more than 30 days to prepare for the conference.
The licensee must meet with agency representatives, whether or not they have legal representation. A staff attorney from the agency will present the accusations and supporting documentation, and board representatives will receive legal advice from another attorney. The panel members and senior staff investigators will consider and make a recommendation following a deliberation after the conference.
The suggestion might be to postpone choosing to gather more data, submit the matter to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) for a contested hearing, or settle it by an Agreed Order. A dental license defense lawyer can typically negotiate the settlement language and the range of potential sanctions. The majority of cases are settled either by an agreed order or dismissal.
Hearings for Contesting a License if There Is No Agreed Order
SOAH will take over the case through an Agreed Order or a dismissal if the case is not resolved earlier. Then, the discovery process will begin with depositions, requests for documents/production (RFP), and certain disclosures.
During the case, SOAH will determine whether the licensee violated the standard of care and if they are eligible to continue practicing. If SOAH permits the licensee to continue practicing, SOAH will define the terms and conditions under which the licensee will be allowed to practice in the future.
The Texas Dental Board’s disciplinary actions may result in a fine and hearing costs assessment and, in more severe cases, revocation of their license. An Administrative Law Judge hears the case as a bench trial, which means no jury is present. Records are introduced as evidence, witness testimony is given, and legal defenses and arguments are employed.
How a Proposal for Decision Works
Following the hearing, the judge will present the board with a Proposal for Decision (PFD), which will analyze the evidence and suggest a course of action. After receiving the PFD, the parties may provide additional pleadings to support their claims. The Board will then conduct a hearing during which attorneys for each party may present a brief oral argument.
The Board either adopts the plan, adopts a plan revision, dismisses the matter, or appeals a portion of the proposal. The licensee has a limited window of time to make an application for rehearing if a disciplinary order is issued to satisfy administrative procedures and maintain the opportunity to appeal.
The Dental Board reexamines the case at the proposal stage, and if they grant a motion for rehearing, they will make another appealable judgment. The licensee has a certain timeline that they must adhere to when filing an appeal in district court if the Board rejects their motion for rehearing. Until the appeal is resolved, the licensee is often still liable for the sanctions the Texas Dental Board issues.
Disciplinary Action After the Complaint and Hearing Process
Discipline against dentists may be based on a variety of justifications, individually or a combination of factors. Forms of unprofessional conduct include:
- Criminal convictions
- Transgressions of patient boundaries
- Billing fraud
- Breaches of confidentiality standards
- Poor care
- Rule violations
- Unlawful advertising
If the Dental Board finds merit, they will discipline the licensee in these situations. The Board may take many disciplinary actions against a licensee if, following a notice and hearing, they determine the licensee violated the TSBDE Rules and Regulations. Possible disciplinary actions under the Texas Occupation Code §263.002 (a) include:
- License suspension or revocation
- Probation with conditions
- A warning letter
- An administrative penalty
The Board may use administrative penalties to address more “minor” non-patient care-related breaches. A licensee may anticipate the Board’s imposition of severe penalties for more serious TSBDE Rules and Regulations infractions.
Put the Power of a Dental License Defense Lawyer in Texas to Work for You
Our dental license defense attorneys in Texas know that all dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants must adhere to rigorous professional standards of care in Texas. These rules and regulations are in place to protect the lives and well-being of your patients. These same standards also were created to protect the rights of dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and other oral health care professionals.
Let a seasoned professional license defense attorney in Texas meet with you to discuss the details of your case. If the TSBDE, the Texas Medical Board, or the Texas Board of Pharmacy challenges your right to practice, having a knowledgeable attorney on your side representing your interests is critical. When your career is at stake, you can’t risk dealing with a complaint on your own or with just any lawyer.
Our dental license defense lawyers in Texas know that dealing with a license defense issue can be overwhelming for any oral health professional. Let us protect your rights. Call and schedule an appointment at our Austin office, and discover what a dental license defense attorney at Bertolino LLP can do for you.
A Law Firm You Can Trust That Will Stand Up to the Board for You
Don’t delay taking action. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can work with you to address the legal issues surrounding your professional license defense. Call and self-schedule an appointment at (512) 476-5757.