Ohio prides itself on its thriving economy, boasting the third-largest manufacturing industry in the United States, as well as being a national leader in the technology industry. But despite its overall financial well-being, The Ohio State University student newspaper has reported a severe state shortage of dental professionals, citing a Kaiser Family Foundation survey that counted 149 Ohio towns as lacking enough dentists to care for their residents' dental needs. The survey estimated it would take roughly 300 more Ohio dentists to ensure adequate dental care provision for all Ohioans.
Notwithstanding this shortage, the Ohio State Dental Board regularly threatens experienced dental professionals with sanctions, suspension, or even revocation of their licenses. The Lento Law Firm Team comes to the aid of dentists who find themselves in such situations, looking out for their due-process rights and protecting them from the loss of their licenses and livelihoods. We can discuss your problem today at 888-535-3686 or submit your details online, and we will contact you.
The Ohio State Dental Board's Power to Regulate Dentists
The Ohio State Dental Board's website declares that the state legislature has empowered the Board to “protect the public through licensure, education and enforcement of standards with fairness and integrity.” These are fine ideals, but like all government agencies, the Board is composed of fallible human beings who can make errors in judgment and whose assessments are not always correct. Thus, the Board may send out a notice of possible disciplinary action based on false or misleading information from some random individual's false claim that a dentist has violated the laws and rules governing the practice of dentistry.
Ohio dental professionals regularly find such notices in their mail. While alarming, dentists need not panic. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team regularly deals with state regulatory boards on behalf of dental professionals who find themselves in such situations. A member of the Lento Law Firm Team can represent you before the Dental Board and help guide you to a better outcome than you would most likely receive on your own.
The Ohio State Dental Board's Types of Discipline
The Ohio legislature has granted the State Dental Board broad powers to investigate and impose penalties on dental professionals accused of wrongdoing. Depending on the nature and severity of the alleged wrongdoing, penalties may include:
- A written reprimand, which may be confidential or public;
- A public censure, more drastic than a reprimand;
- An order to take remedial education classes in the subject areas in which the dentist has been judged to have fallen short;
- Placing limitations on the types of procedures the dentist may perform. While these limitations may be temporary, they can permanently harm a dentist's practice by driving patients to other dental professionals whom they continue to patronize even after the limitations have been lifted.
- A period of probation that may last months or years. During probation, the dental professional must file reports with the Board and may have to limit their practice to areas specified by the Board or take professional education classes specified by the Board.
- License suspension, or, worst of all, permanent revocation.
Dentists placed on probation find themselves in a precarious position. Even if they fulfill Board-imposed obligations, their license may subsequently be suspended or revoked if the Board determines that they have failed to meet probation requirements or have continued to engage in activities constituting grounds for discipline.
The Ohio Dental Practice Act Can Trip Up Even an Experienced Dental Professional
Whether it starts with a patient complaint or a Dental Board staff member's office inspection, dozens of Ohio dentists annually receive notices of possible disciplinary actions for failing to follow one or more of the hundreds of rules and regulations detailed in the Ohio Dental Practice Act. Ohio's extensive list of dental rules and regulations can trip up even the most diligent professionals who rightfully focus more on their practices and their patients than on memorizing the Ohio Administrative Code. For example, the Ohio Administrative Code's Dental Hygienists section provides that dental hygienists with a certain minimum of training and experience may only provide dental hygiene services without a supervising dentist present for a maximum of fifteen business days. Woe betide the dentist who fails to mark the calendar date on which that fifteen-day deadline elapses!
The Board may also impose penalties for:
- failure to properly supervise dental hygienists and others working under the dentist's supervision;
- a mental or physical disability that impairs the ability to practice under accepted professional standards;
- inappropriate financial arrangements used to attract new patients, such as waiving the payment of a deductible or copayment that a patient would otherwise be required to pay, and
- failure to cooperate in a Board investigation.
The Ohio State Dental Board's Complaint Investigation Process
As part of its duty to protect the public, the Dental Board website instructs dental consumers how to file a complaint against a dentist. The website explains how the investigation process works and what a dentist can expect after a complaint has been filed. The site details the extensive procedures involved in investigating and prosecuting Dental Act violations. While this detailed process can help protect a dentist's due process rights, it can be challenging for a non-lawyer to navigate. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team is available to help navigate the process. Call the Lento Law Firm Team at 888.535.3686today or submit your case details online.
The Dental Board lists ten broad categories of violations that it investigates:
- Improper Prescribing, Dispensing, or Administering of Drugs
- Failing to Maintain Minimal Standards of Care
- Fraud, Misrepresentation, or Deception
- Lewd and Immoral Conduct
- Unlicensed Practice/ Permitting
- Criminal Convictions
- Impairment of Ability to Practice
- Infection Control Violations
- Continuing Education Violations
- Miscellaneous Violations
As shown above, some of these relate directly to the practice, while others pertain to personal conduct outside of the dental practice. The Dental Board is authorized to penalize dentists for actions that may be only indirectly related to or outside their field of practice. Ohio Revised Code Section 4715.30, Disciplinary Actions, imposes penalties for criminal findings such as fraud, felonies and misdemeanors, and drug offenses.
Impairment of Ability to Practice and Protecting a Dentist's Due-Process Rights
If the Board believes a dentist's physical or mental condition is at issue, it may order the dentist to submit to medical examinations, the results of which are submitted to the Board. Courts have held that standard HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy protections do not apply in such instances: A professional license is a privilege, not a right, and the Board's mission of protecting the public overrides the dental professional's individual privacy rights. Notwithstanding this, a zealous advocate from the Lento Law Firm Team can take steps to make sure the medical records remain confidential.
Requesting a Hearing
Anyone who receives a letter from the Dental Board notifying them of a complaint is entitled to request a hearing. Some matters can be settled without the necessity of a hearing, especially if an attorney experienced in negotiating with government agencies acts as a go-between to resolve the matter quickly and satisfactorily. In such cases, the Dental Board Secretary is authorized to negotiate a settlement agreement on behalf of the Dental Board.
Other matters are complex enough to require a formal administrative hearing. Dental Board hearings are open to the public, and a court reporter transcribes all lawyer statements and witness testimony. Witnesses must swear to tell the truth, the same as in a traditional courtroom.
An Assistant Attorney General (AAG) from the Ohio Attorney General's Office represents the Dental Board and acts as the prosecutor at the hearing. The AAG will take testimony from witnesses who have personal knowledge or relevant documents. While the Board does not require that an accused dental professional have legal counsel, the odds of presenting a successful defense are greatly increased if an experienced defense attorney presents the dentist's case. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team has ample experience presenting dental professionals in their best light, countering the testimony of prosecution witnesses. Your attorney may cross-examine prosecution witnesses and also challenge or object to documents presented as evidence.
Depending on whether the hearing takes place in front of the full Board or a single Hearing Examiner, the decision will either be handed down by the Board that day, or the Hearing Examiner will write up a report and submit recommendations to the full Board. Either way, the Board will issue a final Adjudication Order. Once issued, the dentist has 15 days to file an appeal with the court of common pleas in the county where the dentist resides or practices. That deadline is non-negotiable–once it's passed, there's no possibility for appeal. The Lento Law Firm Team handles appeals and can help ensure that a strong appeal is filed in the proper court before the deadline has passed.
The Dental Board Publishes a List of Dental Professionals Who Have Been Sanctioned
Dental Board investigations and the records pertaining to these investigations are confidential by law, and some actions are kept entirely confidential. Nevertheless, each month, the Board publishes a Formal Action Report listing the names of dentists whom the Board has determined have violated the Ohio Dental Practice Act.
The categories of actions taken include:
- Consent agreements: dentists who have arrived at a settlement agreement with the Board without a hearing. The report lists two categories of consent agreements: disciplinary and non-disciplinary.
- Notices of opportunity for hearing: if a dental professional is not able to arrive at a consent agreement with the Board, the Board sets a date for an administrative hearing that will be open to the public;
- Notices of proposal to deny an application for a license, with notices of opportunity for a hearing that will be open to the public.
- Voluntary permanent surrender of license: a list of the names of dental professionals accused of serious violations which have opted to quit practicing dentistry rather than fight the charges.
The Formal Action Report is publicly available to anyone with an internet connection. This makes it easy for anyone interested in a dentist's professional history to find the names of sanctioned dentists with the click of a search button. With such a distressing possibility looming, any dental professional who learns that the Board has initiated an action against them will want the assistance of an experienced legal professional, one of the talented members of the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team.
Assistance With Licensing and Renewal
Sometimes, a dentist with all the necessary training and degrees will discover that incidents from their past have come back to haunt them by presenting a roadblock to gaining that all-important license to practice. Whether it be an old driving violation, a long-ago teenage misdemeanor, or something else from the distant past, the Board may require additional proof that the dentist is now fit to practice without risking the health and welfare of Ohio residents. The Lento Law Firm Team can assist in such situations.
Dentists who are licensed out of state and wish to practice in Ohio must apply for an Ohio license in order to practice on their own. The process can be cumbersome, requiring the retrieval and submission of scores of documents such as transcripts, national board scores, state board scores, and state and national background checks. Bureaucratic delays can prolong the process and delay a dentist from earning a living in their chosen profession. When this happens, a member of the Lento Law Firm Team can make inquiries on your behalf. The Lento Law Firm Team is familiar with how the Board operates and may be able to expedite the processing of an application that has been shoved to the bottom of the pile.
A member of the Lento Law Firm Team can act as a liaison for all interactions related to protecting your dental license. Call the Lento Law Firm Team at 888.535.3686 today for a consultation about how we will fight for your dental license in Ohio. You can also submit your case details online, and a member of our team will reach out as soon as possible.