Dental Hygienists - Frequently Asked Questions

Questions for License Issues

In the case of professional license disciplinary proceedings, what you don't know can hurt you. If you are a dental hygienist facing a license issue, then you need to know the license discipline rules and procedures. If you take the wrong step, you can lose your license. If you take the right steps, though, you can vastly increase your likelihood of retaining your license or even getting your license reinstated after its revocation. You worked hard to make your hygienist career a success. Dental hygienics is currently a very solid career. Don't lose that career to license issues.

Who Can Take My Hygienist's License?

The same state board of dentistry that granted you the license can take the license away. For example, the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry licenses dental hygienists in that state. Pennsylvania, New York, and other states have similar state boards of dentistry. Those state boards not only grant dental hygienist licenses but also take them away when circumstances demonstrate the hygienist's unfitness to practice. See, for example, this published case in which the New Jersey Board of Dentistry indefinitely suspended the hygienist's license for failing to complete a recovery program following a felony DUI charge. Your state board controls your hygienist's license. Find a list of state dental boards here.

How Will I Know I'm Under Investigation?

Initially, you may not know you are under investigation, although you will probably be aware of the circumstance leading to the investigation. If, for instance, a patient whom you treated complains to the state board alleging incompetent care or abuse, then you probably will have heard from the patient first. If someone complains without reason and the state board deems the complaint frivolous, then you may never hear of the complaint. But sooner or later, the state board will contact you by mail, certified mail, or other reliable means. Your constitutional due process rights require the state board to give you fair notice.

Should I Answer an Investigator's Questions?

Generally, not without legal representation. State dental licensing laws and regulations will require you to cooperate with your state board's investigation. But cooperation doesn't mean answering every question on the spur of the moment. If an investigator contacts you, retain a skilled and experienced professional license defense attorney before agreeing to meet and speak with the investigator.

What Could Jeopardize My Hygienist's License?

Professional misconduct like incompetent care, malpractice awards, patient abuse, and unprofessional or harassing conduct toward colleagues can jeopardize your license. See, for example, Sections 29.1, 29.2, and 29.5 of New York's Board of Regents Rules. So can personal misconduct like domestic violence incidents, drunk driving convictions, and drug or alcohol abuse affecting practice. Anything calling into question your fitness to practice dental hygienics can lead to a license issue.

What Penalties Can the Board Impose?

The primary penalties have to do with your license. State boards of dentistry can revoke your license, suspend your license indefinitely, suspend your license for a specific period, or place you on probation. But boards can also condition your license's reinstatement on other things like your completing counseling, training, or drug or alcohol treatment or education. Boards can also condition your reinstatement on payment of restitution to anyone whom your substandard practice harmed and payment of the costs of the license proceeding.

What Process Should I Expect?

You should expect a notice from the state board that you are under investigation. The board's investigator will likely request your information, including your statement and any relevant documents or things. Your professional license defense attorney should have a similar opportunity to get the board's information and to collect evidence that exonerates you or mitigates your offense. If the matter does not resolve by dismissal or compromise, then you will have a hearing before the board at which you and your attorney can present witnesses and arguments. Appeals from adverse decisions are also generally possible. See, for example, the Ohio State Dental Board's disciplinary procedures.

Why Should I Retain an Attorney?

First, your dental hygienist's license is worth it. Second, the risks you face are probably greater than you think. Even a simple license reprimand or brief license suspension could cost you your job. And losing your job could cost you your career. License proceedings are adversarial. You need a trained, skilled, and experienced attorney advocate.

What Kind of Attorney Should I Retain?

Don't hire a general practitioner lawyer who lacks administrative dispute resolution skills. Instead, hire an attorney who has substantial skill and experience in professional license discipline defense. National license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill and experience. He has helped countless professionals nationwide address and resolve potential license issues.

When Should I Hire an Attorney?

As soon as you suspect that a disciplinary proceeding has begun or may soon begin. If your state board is already investigating you or will soon do so, then you need your attorney to prepare to respond to the proceeding. That means preserving, collecting, and organizing evidence exonerating you from the anticipated misconduct charge. Your attorney may also be able to help you negotiate a resolution with the complainant before it becomes a charge.

Can I Get My License Reinstated If It's Already Revoked?

Yes, depending on the grounds for revocation. Your license defense attorney can help you confirm and document your compliance with any reinstatement terms and conditions. Your attorney can also help you make the convincing showing and argument you'll need to get your license back.

Do I Have to Tell My Employer?

You'll need to tell your dental hygienics employer if you have suffered license discipline, especially license suspension or revocation. You must not practice without a valid and current license. Let your attorney help you decide when and how to tell your employer that you are under investigation for discipline. If anyone who needs to know asks if you are under investigation, you should answer truthfully while generally saying no more than that you are cooperating with the investigation. Again, let your attorney help you know when, with whom, and what to communicate.

Will Discipline in Another State Affect My License?

Yes. The National Practitioner Data Bank collects license discipline and similar information on healthcare practitioners, including dental hygienists. Licensing boards check the data bank. And you must generally self-report discipline in another state to your state board. Better to fight discipline charges than to expect to hide them.

If you are a dental hygienist facing a professional license investigation, then hire an attorney who has skill and experience in professional license discipline proceedings. Retain professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm for your license defense. Call 888.535.3686 now or use the online service.


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