As a dentist in Vermont, you've chosen to serve your neighbors in a trusted capacity, protecting the dental health and welfare of your patients and a close-knit community. If you're facing an allegation of misconduct as a dental professional, it can seriously impact your career and your reputation in the community. That's why getting the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm is so important from the beginning. Call 888.535.3686 or contact us online to schedule your consultation today.
Regulation of Dentists in Vermont
In Vermont, the Secretary of State's Office of Professional Regulation is responsible for licensing and regulating dentists along with the Board of Dental Examiners. The board licenses and regulates:
- Dental hygienists,
- Dental therapists,
- Certified dental assistants, and
- Traditional dental assistants,
The Board of Dental Examiners (BODE) consists of:
- Six dentists in good standing appointed who have practiced in Vermont for at least five years,
- Two dental hygienists in good standing who have practiced for at least three years, and
- One registered dental assistant who has practiced for at least three years, and
- Two members of the public not associated with a dental practice.
The BODE has the authority to:
- Adopt rules under the Vermont Administrative Procedure Act regarding licensing, standards, continuing education, and professional conduct,
- Explain complaint and appeal processes to dental practitioners, applicants, and the public, and
- Provide general information to applicants.
Becoming a Dentist in Vermont
To become a dentist, you've gone through a rigorous educational and training process. After years of school, dental school, and training, you don't want to let an allegation of professional misconduct harm your career. Professional discipline or even an allegation of wrongdoing can have long-lasting effects on your professional and community reputation.
To become a dentist in Vermont, you must:
- Hold a DDS or DMD degree from a Commission on Dental Accreditation accredited school, or
- Hold a dental degree from an international dental training program and have graduated or will soon graduate from a postgraduate program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association.
- Submit a verification of postgraduate education from your dental school,
- Submit an official transcript from every dental program you've attended,
- Submit your National Dental Board Examination scores,
- Submit your Regional Board Scores,
- Submit a completion certificate for an Emergency Office Procedures or CPR course,
- Provide your DEA number if applicable, and
- Pass a criminal background check.
Vermont will also consider your criminal background when determining whether to grant or renew your dental license.
Potential Disciplinary Issues for Dentists in Vermont
You could face a disciplinary hearing or investigation in Vermont for many reasons. Anyone can make a complaint to the state's BODE, but some of the most common potential disciplinary issues include:
- Mishandling confidential patient information,
- Failure to keep adequate treatment records,
- Abandoning a patient before completing a course of treatment,
- Alcohol or drug abuse allegations,
- A criminal arrest or conviction,
- Sexual misconduct,
- Fraudulent or misleading fees,
- Prescribing narcotics when not necessary,
- Prescribing narcotics to a family member outside of ongoing dental treatment,
- Altering a patient's record to deceive,
- Practicing or maintaining an office that endangers the health or safety of the public,
- Gross or deceptive overcharging,
- Holding yourself out as a specialist without the proper board certification and specialty recognition,
- Allowing another person, group, or corporation to use your name, license, or registration if you aren't in charge of or responsible for the treatment,
- Dividing fees with someone else as a referral fee,
- Rendering professional services while intoxicated or on drugs,
- Promoting “the sale of drugs, devices, appliances, goods, or services provided for a patient in a manner to exploit the patient for financial gain” or “selling, prescribing, giving away, or administering drugs for other than legal and legitimate therapeutic purposes.”
The BODE may also suspend or revoke a license for some criminal convictions.
Investigations & Adjudication for Dental Disciplinary Actions in Vermont
The investigator process for dental complaints in Vermont follows the rules and procedures set by the BODE and the Vermont Administrative Procedure Act. The process involves:
- A formal complaint,
- An investigation,
- A recommendation to the BODE, and
- A consent agreement or a formal hearing.
The complaint process begins when someone files a complaint with the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation. When a patient, co-worker, or licensee files a complaint with the Office of Professional Regulation, they will forward it to the BODE. The BODE will assign an investigator. You will receive a copy of the complaint and have the opportunity to reply. You will also receive a copy if the complainant responds to your reply.
In some cases, your employer may be required by Vermont law to report if you are suspended or fired from your job because of:
- Disciplinary or adverse action at work,
- Allegations of misconduct,
- An unexpected adverse outcome when treating a patient, or
- An action to limit or suspend your license to practice at a healthcare institution.
Under BODE rules and regulations:
Unprofessional conduct includes failure to practice competently. Failure to practice competently includes performing treatments or providing services which one is not qualified to perform, or which are beyond the scope of one's education, training, capabilities, experience, or scope of practice. This means that persons subject to these rules, when presented with an unfamiliar or complicated treatment challenge, have a duty to acquire necessary skill or knowledge to treat a patient. This may mean consulting with another professional before treating the patient. If acquiring sufficient skill and knowledge to competently treat the patient is not possible, the professional has a duty to refer the patient to another professional qualified to treat the patient.
Even if you don't believe anyone has formally reported an allegation of misconduct at work, if your employer is a mandatory reporter, you may find yourself the subject of an investigation at some point.
During the investigation, the investigator may request patient dental or financial records and interview the complainant, potential witnesses, and you. While you don't have to speak to the BODE investigator, many people believe they can easily clear up a misunderstanding that led to the complaint and the investigation. If you want to speak to the BODE investigator, it's important to remember that anything you say may be used against you later during a disciplinary proceeding. That's why it's a good idea to get the experienced Professional License Defense Team from the Lento Law Firm involved as soon as possible. They can protect your rights from the beginning of an investigation.
Recommendations to the Board
After reviewing the facts, evidence, and witness accounts concerning the complaint, the investigator will make a recommendation to the BODE. The BODE has three options:
- Dismissal: If the BODE believes that there isn't enough evidence of misconduct or a violation of a statute, your actions aren't a violation, or the BODE doesn't believe you violated any rule or statute, they will dismiss the complaint. This will end the complaint and the investigation.
- Consent Agreement: The BODE may also enter into a consent agreement with you to resolve a matter before holding a hearing.
- Adjudicatory Hearing: If the BODE believes there is enough evidence of misconduct and you don't wish to enter a consent agreement, you can request an adjudicator hearing.
While the BODE will often keep a complaint and any investigation confidential while the matter is pending, these documents will eventually become public records. However, the BODE will keep patient treatment records confidential. If you decide to enter a consent agreement, you need the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm on your side. You should never enter into any admission of wrongdoing or consent agreement with the BODE without a legal review.
Adjudicatory BODE Hearings
You have two options for a hearing before the Board of Dental Examiners in Vermont: an informal or a formal hearing. An informal hearing does not contest the charges against you. It is akin to a settlement hearing where you admit you are guilty of the allegations against you and simply address the punishment you will receive. It is similar to entering a consent agreement, settlement agreement, or consent order.
If you wish to contest the allegations against you, you should request a formal hearing. Unless you consent, the BODE cannot take away your state dental license without a full hearing that follows the requirements of the Vermont Administrative Procedure Act. This will be a formal legal proceeding, and you need the experienced Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm to protect your rights during the process.
After requesting a hearing, you should receive a notice of the hearing that includes:
- The time, place, location, and nature of the hearing,
- A statement of the legal authority and jurisdiction for the hearing,
- A reference to the statutes and rules involved, and
- A statement of the matters at issue.
For the hearing, both parties will have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents. At the hearing, both parties can present witness testimony and evidence and cross-examine the other party's witnesses. The hearing will follow the rules of evidence for the Vermont superior courts.
The final decision in a contested hearing must be in writing or stated on the record. Any findings of fact should be based on the evidence, and if the parties had proposed findings of fact, the board must rule on each proposed finding. You will receive the final decision by mail or through personal notification.
District Court Hearing
You can appeal to the Vermont Superior Court if you've exhausted your administrative remedies with the BODE. Typically, you can only appeal based on the record before the BODE hearing. Your pleading should state the grounds for appeal, including:
- The BOPE made an error in interpreting Vermont's laws or constitution,
- The BOPE made a mistake of fact not supported by the evidence presented at the hearing,
- The BODE didn't follow the proper statutory or regulatory procedures, or
- The BODE's actions were “arbitrary or capricious.”
However, you may also petition the court for leave to present additional evidence if it is material to the case and you had a good reason for not presenting it to the BODE. For example, if new evidence came to light after the BODE hearing. In such a case, the court may order the BODE to hear the new evidence under specific conditions. The BODE can also modify its findings or decisions based on this order.
The superior court, after reviewing the appeal and the record from. The BODE hearing may:
- Affirm the BODE decision and sanctions,
- Reverse the BODE decision, or
- Remand the decision to the BODE with specific instructions.
Potential Disciplinary Sanctions for Dentists in Vermont
If the Vermont BODE finds you guilty of misconduct, they can impose several potential sanctions, including:
- Denying a license or registration or renewal;
- Warnings or reprimands;
- Suspension of a license for a set time;
- Revocation of a license;
- Limitations on your practice;
- Setting conditions for your practice or the resumption of your practice;
- Denying a reinstatement; or
- Imposing a civil penalty of up to $ 1,000 for each instance of unauthorized practice, unprofessional conduct, or violation unrelated to patient care.
License Defense Team for Vermont Dentists
If you're a Vermont dentist, you've worked hard to achieve your professional career and good community reputation. If you're facing an allegation of professional misconduct, you don't want to let this go unchallenged. Any public disciplinary action that the BODE takes against you can have long-term consequences and will become public information through the BODE website and the National Practitioner Database. You need the Lento Law Firm's experienced Professional License Defense Team to guide you through the process and protect your rights.
We represent dental practitioners across the U.S. and throughout Vermont, including in Northern, Central, and Southern Vermont:
- South Burlington
- Rutland City
- Essex Junction