As a licensed dentist or dental professional in Hawaii, you invested a lot of time, energy, and money into getting your professional license and building your practice. You also understand the awesome responsibility you have to provide the utmost care to your patients, and you work hard to deliver exceptional treatment and services.
Therefore, it probably came as a complete shock to learn you have been accused of misconduct and are under investigation by the Hawaii Board of Dentistry.
Whether your situation involves false allegations of wrongdoing, a terrible misunderstanding, or you simply made an honest mistake, you could face harsh sanctions from the board, which could include license suspension or revocation. Fortunately, you do have options for defending your dentist license in Hawaii and preserving your practice and livelihood.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team is here to help you through this difficult and uncertain time. We can review your case, advise you of your options for answering the accusations, and help you obtain the best outcome possible. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or through our online contact form to request a confidential consultation.
What Licenses Does the Hawaii Board of Dentistry Issue?
Hawaii's Board of Dentistry issues and enforces licenses for the following dental professionals:
- Dental Hygienists, including anesthesia privilege
- Community Service Dentists
- Community Service Dental Hygienists
The board may also issue temporary licenses in certain circumstances, such as for out-of-state visiting dentists.
To receive a license, you must have graduated from an accredited dental school and passed the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination along with other clinical examinations.
How Hawaii's Board of Dentistry Receives and Processes Complaints
The board receives formal complaints through its online portal, and complaints are reviewed, investigated, and prosecuted by the Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO). Parties may submit an unlicensed activity tip, a formal complaint, or a self-help letter. RICO prefers complainants submit self-help letters whenever possible, as it can often offer a speedier remedy than filing a formal complaint. Nevertheless, some actions warrant filing a formal complaint.
RICO has three separate departments that process complaints:
- The intake department at the Consumer Resource Center screens complaints and determines if they should be investigated and meet certain jurisdictional requirements.
- The Field Investigations section reviews the information, gathers evidence, and may refer the matter to prosecution by the Legal Section.
- The Legal Section reviews the complaint and determines if enforcement actions are necessary. The Legal Section will prosecute and pursue formal action against legitimate and serious complaints.
Tips regarding unlicensed activity are referred to the unlicensed task force for review and potential action.
What Are the Possible Sanctions or Consequences a Hawaii Dental Professional Can Receive?
As part of the state's Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Professional & Vocational Licensing Division, Hawaii's Board of Dentistry has the legal authority to take administrative action against any licensed dental professional who it deems has violated standard rules and procedures regarding acceptable dental care and treatment.
Punitive and administrative actions the board could take include:
- Public reprimand
- Fines or restitution
- Probation or conditional probation
- License suspension or revocation
In some cases, you could also face criminal penalties, which could include hefty fines and incarceration from up to six months to a year.
Keep in mind that any disciplinary action will negatively impact your professional reputation and your career. This is especially true if the complaint goes on your public record. Virtually anyone can search RICO's Complaints History database to learn of licensed professionals in Hawaii who have formal complaints and actions against them.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Dentists in Hawaii?
As stated above, RICO receives, investigates, and prosecutes complaints through its various offices. It also prefers complainants to the self-help letter when appropriate. The complainant will draft a letter similar to this sample self-help letter and submit it to RICO.
Self-help is often used when there is a dispute that can be easily resolved or one that does not involve a violation of the accepted standards of medical and dental treatment. Many times, the dentist and the complainant can work out the dispute, and the dentist will likely not see any formal sanctions.
Formal complaints are more serious and initiate direct involvement from RICO to determine their validity and scope. Virtually anyone can file a formal complaint, including colleagues, staff, patients, insurers, and healthcare entities.
RICO Field Investigators will review the complaint and investigate the matter further while trying to collect enough evidence to support the claim and take further action. They will also likely contact you and inform you of the investigation.
If the board finds sufficient evidence the complaint has merit, they may offer you to agree to a consent order as an alternative to a hearing or simply as punishment. A consent order is a legally binding agreement between you and the board where you admit the complaint is valid and agree to any sanctions the board imposes.
If a consent order is not a viable option for either party, the complaint will move forward, and the board will conduct a formal hearing on the matter. This is a legal proceeding, and you are allowed to have an attorney present. The board will consider evidence from both sides and render a decision.
If the board rules against you, you have the right to appeal the decision. An attorney can help you file with the appropriate appellate court or board. However, appeals are only granted on cases where you can show judicial misconduct or procedural errors affected the outcome.
Offenses or Allegations that Might Jeopardize Your Dentist License in Hawaii
The Hawaii Board of Dentistry and its RICO division take any allegations of wrongdoing seriously. Some accusations that can warrant a RICO investigation and prosecution include:
For Hawaii dentists, accusations of fraud could include:
- Overbilling patients
- Using a code for a more expensive service than the one provided (upcoding)
- Billing patients or insurance providers for services you did not provide
- Accepting kickbacks or financial compensation for referrals
- Providing unlicensed services or outside the scope of your license
- Making false patient diagnoses to collect higher reimbursements from insurance
Gross Negligence or Abuse
You could receive a complaint from a patient if they felt you jeopardized their safety or health, such as
- Not providing an accepted standard of care
- Abusing them physically or sexually
- Violating their patient confidentiality
Inappropriate Handling of Medications
You could face complaints and harsh disciplinary action if you make mistakes prescribing or administering medication. This is true if you are caught stealing medication from your practice or selling prescription drugs.
Inappropriate Relationships or Sexual Misconduct
You can also face disciplinary actions for engaging in inappropriate sexual or romantic relationships with your patients, whether the relationship is consensual or not. The same holds true for sexual harassment. Also, you could face criminal charges for sexual assault.
If you struggle with alcohol or substance abuse or addiction—and this affects your practice--you could face disciplinary action from the board.
Not Keeping Accurate Records
You must maintain your patient records and ensure they are correct and updated when necessary. Failure to do so can get you in trouble with the Board of Dentistry, and you could risk losing your license.
If you are convicted of a serious crime, you could lose your license. This is especially true if the crime involved alcohol and drug-related offenses, sexual offenses, or offenses related to the practice of dentistry.
Can I Lose My License If Someone Sues Me for Medical Malpractice?
Not necessarily. Medical malpractice, which includes dental malpractice, is a civil issue and usually falls outside the board's purview. Even if you are found liable for dental malpractice, the licensing revocation process is different than the civil court process.
However, keep in mind that sometimes these can overlap. If you are found to be in violation of the board's rules and policies, your license could be at risk, as well as your finances. One example of how this could occur is if your dental malpractice insurer submitted a complaint against you for violations you committed that prompted the malpractice suit.
You are well advised to contact an experienced dentist license defense attorney for answers specific to your case.
How the Lento Law Firm Can Help Protect Your Hawaii Dentistry License
You depend on your Hawaii dentistry license for your profession and practice. Any allegations or complaints of wrongdoing can place your license at risk and undermine what you have worked so hard to achieve.
You want to do all you can to defend yourself against any accusations and safeguard your license and future. For help, you need an experienced legal advocate on your side who can help you devise an effective defense and represent you throughout the board's adjudication process.
Furthermore, dealing with the Hawaii Board of Dentistry and its RICO division is not for the uninitiated. The process of answering charges related to your practice, preparing for the hearing, presenting your defense, and appealing any adverse decisions is complex and challenging without the proper knowledge and skills.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help level the playing field and increase your chances of getting the favorable outcomes you seek. Our team can provide assistance by:
- Reviewing the complaint thoroughly and recommending strategic options to create a strong defense
- Collecting evidence and procuring witness testimony
- Representing you during all aspects of the RICO investigation and initial interactions with the licensing board
- Helping you draft a compelling written response to the complaint and aiding you in resolving the matter without formal sanctions
- Negotiating with the board to try and have the case dismissed or mitigate potential consequences
- Helping you get the most favorable terms possible in a consent agreement
- Representing you at the formal hearing and advocating strongly on your behalf
Dealing with Hawaii's Board of Dentistry and RICO's Field Investigators and Legal Section is not something you want to try to tackle on your own. Contact the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team right away for a complete evaluation of your case and advice regarding your options.
Areas We Serve in Hawaii
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team serves dentists, dental hygienists, orthodontists, and other licensed dental professionals throughout the state of Hawaii, including these metro areas:
Honolulu - Hawaii's largest city and the state's capital, Hawaii, is home to more than 350,000 people. It sits on Oahu Island and has a diverse blend of Western, Asian, and Pacific cultures. The city also has many corporate headquarters, along with numerous tourist attractions, such as Diamond Head, the USS Arizona Memorial, and Waikiki Beach.
Hilo – Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Hilo is the largest settlement in Hawaii County, with a population of around 47,000. Hilo boasts amazing views of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, which is also the location of the Mauna Kea Observatory.
Other metros we serve in Hawaii include:
- Pearl City
- Ewa Gentry
- Mililani Town
- Mililani Mauka
If you are a licensed dentist or dental professional in any of these locations—or anywhere in Hawaii—and you face accusations and investigations from the Hawaii Board of Dentistry, contact The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team today.
Get the Help You Need to Defend Your Dentist License in Hawaii
You worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get where you are in your dentistry career and practice. Do not let allegations of wrongdoing derail your career and livelihood—as well as your passion for helping others.
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team has experience defending dentists and dental professionals throughout the country—including Hawaii. We can advise you of your options and fight hard to protect your license and safeguard your reputation and practice.