As a licensed dentist in New Jersey, you meet a crucial need for the public. You help people improve and maintain their oral health, which is essential for overall health and well-being. Because of the vital role you play in society, the state takes great care in ensuring that only those with the proper training and qualifications are licensed to practice dentistry and that all licensed dentists operate to the highest professional and ethical standards.
You've worked long and hard to become a licensed dentist, but the truth is that it only takes one complaint to derail all you've worked for. A patient who is unhappy with your work, an employee who feels wronged, or even a simple misunderstanding can lead to an investigation by the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry, possibly culminating in having your license suspended or revoked.
Your best chance of surviving the disciplinary process with your dentistry license intact is to hire a skilled New Jersey professional license defense attorney at the first sign of trouble. Joseph D. Lento is an attorney based in New Jersey who has defended many professionals against allegations of wrongdoing. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case and your options.
What Types of Allegations Could Jeopardize Your Dentist's License?
Most allegations that could endanger a dentist's license to practice will have something to do with a violation of the state Dental Practices Act, Board regulations, or some other violation of law or the public trust. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Unprofessional conduct. This category encompasses a wide range of offenses, including false advertising, altering records, filing incorrect or fraudulent insurance claims, or unprofessional dealings with patients.
- Sexual misconduct. Examples include making unwanted sexual advances toward employees or patients, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or inappropriate romantic relationships with patients.
- Substance abuse. This is one of the most common offenses that result in license discipline for dentists because alcohol or drug abuse can impair one's judgment when treating patients.
- Criminal convictions. Certain criminal offenses (such as DWI or crimes of moral turpitude) may constitute a violation of your dental license. So can failing to report to the board if you have recently been arrested.
- Inappropriate handling of medications. Examples include prescribing medications without a legitimate reason, keeping inaccurate inventories, pilfering medications for personal use or sale on the street, etc.
- Violating state standards of care. Examples include misdiagnosis of patients, gross negligence, or providing Incompetent care.
What Does the Disciplinary Process Look Liked for Dentists in New Jersey?
Most disciplinary license investigations against dentists begin with a formal complaint filed with the State Board of Dentistry. Complaints may be filed by patients, employees, employers, or any other member of the public. In New Jersey, the disciplinary process typically proceeds in the following manner:
Request For Written Response
After receiving and reviewing the complaint, the Board will notify you of the complaint and ask for a written response. This is your first opportunity to provide context and tell your side of the story. If the Board is satisfied that your explanation and supporting evidence are convincing, they may dismiss the complaint without further action. An experienced license defense attorney can help you prepare a persuasive written response.
Next, the Board will submit the complaint to a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC), which will, in turn, assign an investigator to search for evidence to support the complaint. Fact-finding activities may include interviews with the complainant and other parties, paperwork subpoenas, etc. The PEC may also ask you to appear to testify under oath.
The Board might offer to negotiate a consent agreement with you if the investigation uncovers sufficient evidence to warrant disciplinary actions. A consent order is a binding agreement where you effectively admit wrongdoings to the Board and agree to abide voluntarily by its determinations. A consent order isn't always the best resolution, but if the evidence suggests disciplinary action is likely, it can be a good option, especially if it provides a pathway for the eventual reinstatement of your license. A good attorney can negotiate the best possible terms of a consent order.
If no consent order is negotiated or agreed to, the next step is a formal hearing. You will be summoned to appear before an Administrative Law Judge to show cause why the Board should not issue disciplinary action. You can have an attorney represent you at these hearings. Based on the evidence presented, the judge will make a recommendation to Board as to disciplinary action. Based on these recommendations, the Board will determine what disciplinary action to take, which could include revoking or suspending your license.
Why You Need a New Jersey Dentist License Defense Attorney
Once a complaint is filed with the State Board of Dentistry, you are effectively at a disadvantage because there is no presumption of innocence. The Board's top priority is to protect the public, and they have broad authority to issue disciplinary actions based only on a preponderance of the evidence. Even your responses to the complaint or your interactions with the Board could be taken and used as evidence against you.
A skilled license defense attorney can help level the playing field in a license investigation. Your lawyer can review the complaint and prepare a persuasive written response that may convince the Board to drop the matter completely. Your attorney will also help you navigate the disciplinary process from end to end, making sure your rights are protected while negotiating for the best possible resolution. In short, the involvement of an attorney greatly increases your chances of keeping your dentist's license.
Your career as a New Jersey dentist hinges on your license. Don't risk your career by responding passively to an investigation by the Board. Attorney Joseph D. Lento will work to get you the best possible result. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.