From Portland to the Canadian border, Mainers face many stereotypes. But Mainers aren't just lobster fishermen and innkeepers. People who live and work in Maine are good neighbors and strive to create strong communities with dedicated professionals who work and live in this beautiful state. Dentists and other medical professionals hold a position of trust in Maine communities. As a result, the state heavily regulates the profession and its practice, ensuring that dental professionals in Maine adhere to high standards.
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 Maine
The Maine Board of Dental Practice (MBDP) is the state's primary regulatory agency for licensed dentists. The board was established to “protect the public through the regulation of individuals practicing in the dental profession.” The board examines qualified applicants for licenses as:
- Dental hygienists,
- Dental radiographers,
- Dental therapists,
- Denturists, and
- Expanded function dental assistants.
The board also issues sedation permits for qualified licensed professionals, inspects dental practices, investigates complaints against licensed dental professionals, and takes appropriate disciplinary action when needed.
Becoming a Dentist in Maine
Becoming a dentist in Maine is an intensive process that requires years of education and training and rigorous testing and application. To become a licensed dentist in Maine, you must:
- Complete a doctoral degree at a qualified institution,
- If your doctor degree was not from a school certified by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, you'll need an “Official Educational Equivalency Report” issued by a professional organization recognized by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services,
- Pass parts I and II or the integrated exam of the National Dental Board Examination,
- Provide a curriculum vitae,
- Obtain a passing score on the jurisprudence exam demonstrating knowledge of Maine's statutes and rules governing licensed dental practitioners,
- Provide documentation verifying licensing in another jurisdiction if applicable,
- Obtain life support certifications,
- Provide a National Practitioner's Data Bank self-query report, and
- Pay $871 in application and licensing fees.
Your application will be a public record available to anyone upon request. Maine law also allows the state to consider your criminal record when considering your licensing application. Maine's Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation requires the board to obtain a criminal background check from every applicant.
Potential Disciplinary Issues for Dentists in Maine
Some of the most common reasons the Maine Board of Dental Practice may begin an investigation or disciplinary process against a Maine dentist include:
- Unprofessional conduct,
- Sexual misconduct,
- Obtaining fraudulent or misleading fees,
- Dividing fees for patient referrals without the patient's knowledge,
- Prescribing narcotics to a family member or domestic partner except for ongoing dental treatment,
- Using, possessing, or prescribing controlled substances for anything other than dental therapeutic purposes,
- Excessively using diagnostic procedures or tests, excessively prescribing medications for diagnostic procedures or tests, and inappropriately prescribing or administering drugs,
- Advertising “professional superiority or the performance of professional services in a superior manner,”
- Threats or harassment against any patient, peer, employee, or licensee for providing evidence in a disciplinary action or legal proceeding,
- Altering a patient's record with intent to deceive,
- Failing to follow practice standards,
- Failing to follow ethical and professional conduct standards,
- Failing to maintain patient confidentiality,
- Keeping any pets or animals, including emotional support animals, in a practice setting, except for aquarium fish,
- Abandoning a patient before completing a course of treatment,
- Delegating “dental activity” to a non-dentist,
- Failing to respond to board inquiries,
- Violating a standard of care under the Maine Dental Practice Act,
- Engaging in disruptive behavior that interferes with providing dental care, and
- Some criminal convictions.
The MDBP will only revoke or deny a license for a criminal conviction “if the licensing agency determines that the applicant, licensee, registrant or permit holder so convicted has not been sufficiently rehabilitated to warrant the public trust.” However, you will bear the burden of showing you're sufficiently rehabilitated through your activities since the conviction, community service, therapy, and character references. Some criminal convictions that can affect your Maine dental license include those involving drugs and alcohol, sexual assault, violent offenses, fraud, and theft.
Investigation & Adjudication for Dental Disciplinary Actions in Maine
Before taking disciplinary action against you, the Maine Board of Dental Practice must follow the procedures in the Maine Dental Practice Act, including investigating a complaint and holding a hearing if needed.
The first step in any MBDP is typically a complaint filed with the board. After receiving a complaint, the board will acknowledge it and send a copy to you. The board will ask you to respond within 30 days, and the board will send a copy of your response to the complainant. The board will then ask the complainant to reply within ten days if they plan to do so. If the complainant does respond, the board will send you a copy.
After the complaint and responses, the board will send the complaint, reply, and response to the complaint committee. The complaint committee will typically have one board member as the complaint officer, the board's executive director, the assistant attorney general assigned to the board, and an investigator if needed. The complaint committee may investigate and contact the complainant, you, and anyone else with relevant information.
Before speaking with the complaint committee, you should contact the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. While you may want to seem cooperative and ensure the complaint committee understands the facts, it's important to remember that anything you say to the board they can later use against you. An attorney can protect your rights in an important conversation or document exchange.
Recommendations to the Board
After completing the investigation, the complaint committee will review their information and make recommendations to the MBDP at a regularly scheduled board meeting. The board will have three options:
- Dismiss the complaint: The MDBP will dismiss the complaint if there isn't enough evidence to determine whether you violated a rule or statute, your actions don't constitute a violation, or the board doesn't believe you violated a rule or statute. This will end the complaint, and the complainant cannot appeal. However, the board may reopen the matter if additional evidence comes to light.
- Enter a consent agreement: A consent agreement is negotiated between you, the board, and the assistant attorney general and can resolve a matter without a hearing. These are public documents.
- Schedule an adjudicatory hearing: If the MDBP believes there is enough evidence of wrongdoing and you aren't willing to enter a consent agreement, they will hold a hearing on the matter.
The complaint and investigation are typically confidential while the investigation is pending. The MBDP uses only the complaint number on public documents and agendas. The board will also avoid using your name when evaluating the complaint committee's recommendation. After the investigation concludes, the complaint will become a public record. However, patient or treatment records will remain confidential.
Adjudicatory MBDP Hearings
If your complaint goes to a full adjudicatory hearing, the hearing will follow the Maine Administrative Procedure Act before the MBDP. The assistant attorney general will present the case to the board, call the complainant and other witnesses, and present evidence. During the hearing, you have a right to be represented by an attorney and to request subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify and to produce documentary evidence. Both sides will have the chance to cross-examine witnesses, and the testimony will be under oath.
After the hearing, the board will confer and vote on whether you violated any statutes or rules. If they agree that you did, they will decide on a sanction. Under Maine law, if the MBDP decides to suspend or revoke your license, it must file a complaint in the Maine District Court to do so, stating in writing the reason that prohibits you from practicing as a dentist based in whole or in part on your conviction. The MBDP cannot suspend or revoke your license without court approval.
District Court Hearing
In the District Court, the judge can:
- Affirm the MBDP decision,
- Modify or correct the decision,
- Order the matter back to the MBDP for additional “findings of fact or conclusions of law,”
- Order the matter back to the MBDP to hold additional proceedings or take additional actions ordered by the court.
The District Court can also overturn an MBDP decision if:
- The MBDP's ruling violates the state or federal constitution or state statutes,
- The MBDP action was a statutory overreach,
- The board didn't follow the proper procedures,
- The MBDP's decision was “affected by bias” or legally incorrect,
- The evidence on record didn't support the board's decision, or
- The MBDP's action was “arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion.”
If the District Court affirms the MBDP's decision to suspend or revoke your license, you can appeal to the Superior Court. While you can appeal to a court, the complainant and the complaint committee do not.
Potential Disciplinary Sanctions for Dentists in Maine
If the MBDP finds you responsible for misconduct, they have a wide range of possible disciplinary actions against you, including:
- Issuing a warning,
- Issuing a reprimand or censure,
- Suspending your license for up to 90 days per violation or incident,
- Revoking your license,
- Fining you up to $1,500 per violation or incident,
- Putting you on probation,
- Imposing the costs of the investigation or hearing on you.
The board cannot order you to pay monetary damages to a complainant, although you can agree to restitution in a consent agreement. If you enter into a consent agreement, it may also contain one of the above sanctions. However, you should never enter into a consent agreement with the MBDP without consulting the experienced Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm.
The National Practitioner Database
After issuing a disciplinary decision or entering into a consent agreement, the board will post it on its website. The board also reports most decisions to the National Practitioner Database (NPDB) maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NPDB is a national database serving as a primary medical practitioner licensing information source. Users of the NPDB can look up a Maine dentist's licensing status and disciplinary history and make hiring decisions based on the information in the database.
While the NPDB makes hiring and licensing across state lines much easier, the database increases the stakes for Maine dentists facing disciplinary action. If you apply for a new position or a license in any other state, you will have to explain any disciplinary history listed in the database. This is why it's essential that you get the skilled Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm involved as soon as possible.
License Defense Team for Maine Dentists
If you're a dentist in Maine facing a disciplinary investigation or hearing, you need legal guidance urgently. Any public disciplinary action taken against you by the MBDP can have long-term consequences for your career. Any disciplinary action the MBDP takes will become public information after the investigatory phase, with public access via the MBDP website and the National Practitioner Database. You need the experienced Professional License Defense Team from the Lento Law Firm on your side.
We represent dentists nationally and throughout the state of Maine, including dental practitioners in:
- South Portland
- Windham and others
The Lento Law Firm Professional Licensing Defense Team has guided many dental professionals nationwide through licensing investigations and disciplinary actions, and they can help you, too. Call 888.535.3686 or contact us online today.