As a licensed dentist in Oregon, you've already gone through the process administered by the Oregon Board of Dentistry to get your license, whether it was through the process of taking an examination and applying for your first dental license or applying based on a license you held in another state or country. But well before you were licensed in Oregon, you devoted thousands of hours to studying in college and in dental school, learning hands-on in one or more clinical settings, practicing for and taking your licensing exam or exams (depending on your specialties), and gathering the information needed for the Board of Dentistry to process your license application.
The value of your dental license is enormous. Not only have you spent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars just to earn the right to call yourself a licensed Dentist in Oregon, but you can also look forward to a well-paid career caring for patients who will look to you for guidance and treatment of their dental issues. That's why you need to take it very seriously if you receive a notice that someone has filed a complaint against you with the Board of Dentistry. Depending on the nature of the complaint, you could be facing sanctions that will be accessible to the public for decades to come and can range from a relatively mild warning (in a "letter of concern") to more serious consequences such as a temporary suspension of your ability to perform certain procedures until you've taken certain mandatory training, to a full suspension or even termination of your license.
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team has helped licensed professionals, including Dentists, face serious disciplinary charges all over the US. Your dental license is the key to your future, and you need a professional by your side when your license is in jeopardy. Our experienced attorneys understand the laws, rules, regulations, and procedures that apply in dentist disciplinary proceedings in Oregon and are ready to help you defend yourself – as we've helped many others – through the very stressful investigation and misconduct resolution process.
Ways the State of Oregon Board of Dentistry Can Discipline Dentists
The Oregon Department of Health, which has jurisdiction over all types of dental licenses in the state through the Board of Dentistry, has a number of ways that it can discipline you if you're found to have committed misconduct. It won't do so, however, without conducting an investigation of the complaint that's been filed against you.
The department notes on the Board of Dentistry website that it "does not have jurisdiction over: fees, personality conflicts, rude behavior, or the scheduling of appointments." If it receives a complaint that falls into one of these categories, the board is generally not going to take any further action on it, and you'll probably never even know that it was filed.
The board will investigate complaints relating to a wide range of topics, including that you've engaged in unprofessional conduct, that you've been convicted of a crime that has some relationship to your work as a dentist, and that you provided "unacceptable patient care," among others. The term "unprofessional conduct" is defined in Oregon law to include fraudulently obtaining fees, failing to keep patient information confidential, false advertising related to your dental practice, working while intoxicated or impaired, mis-prescribing drugs, and being disciplined by another state dental licensing agency.
If the board finds that the complaint against you is substantiated, it has a wide range of enforcement options. These include:
- Suspending judgment for a period of time, usually contingent on you completing one or more practical courses relating to dental skills or dental practice requirements
- Reprimanding you, which will appear in your public record
- Placing you on probation, which will not affect your ability to practice but will be noted on your public record
- Limiting the types of procedures that you can practice
- Suspending your license to practice entirely, usually for a period of time during which you may also be required to take and pass one or more courses before your license will be reinstated
- Revoking your license, accepting the resignation of your Oregon dental license, or refusing to renew your license
The Board of Dentistry also has the right to "Impose any other disciplinary action the board in its discretion finds proper, including assessment of the costs of the disciplinary proceedings as a civil penalty." It may also require you to refund the fees paid by the complaining patient and compensate the patient for the costs of correcting the problems the board finds that your conduct caused.
What Standards Does Oregon Expect Dentists to Uphold?
To be licensed as a dentist in Oregon, you must at least be 18 years of age; have graduated from an accredited dental school or a foreign equivalent; have passed an examination that is "elementary and practical in character but sufficiently thorough to test the fitness of the applicant to practice dentistry."
Dentists must take continuing education courses in order to be able to renew their licenses, which happens every two years. Within that two-year period, dentists must take at least 40 hours of approved "CE" courses "related to direct clinical patient care," at least two hours of "infection control" CE, as well as at least two hours of "continuing education related to cultural competency." Finally, dentists renewing their licenses are also required to take a one-hour pain management course offered by the Pain Management Commission of the Oregon Health Authority.
Failure to take the required CE courses can lead to disciplinary charges if you renew your license and claim to have completed the required CE without actually having done so. And because the Oregon Department of Health audits about one in six dentists who renew their licenses in any year, there is a real possibility that if you claim to have met your CE requirements but actually have not, you'll be found out and disciplined as a result.
Grounds for Dentist Discipline in Oregon
There are a number of different types of misconduct identified in Oregon law that can result in disciplinary sanctions against a dentist. You can be disciplined for "unacceptable patient care," including:
- Providing treatment that exposes the patient to harm when alternative and safer treatment is available
- Failing to consult with a specialist about patient treatment when doing so would safeguard the patient's welfare
- Not providing emergency treatment for a patient who needs it
- Allowing an unlicensed staff member to work on a patient without the required supervision
- Providing treatment that exceeds the type of treatment that the dentist is licensed to give
- Not keeping proper patient records as required by Oregon law
- Unsafe operation of an X-ray machine
- Failing to secure consent for dental procedures, except where an emergency situation prevents doing so
In addition, you may also be disciplined for "unprofessional conduct." This includes
- Fraudulently obtaining or attempting to obtain a fee (for example, by misstating the work performed in the bill to the patient or on the insurance claim form)
- Providing rebates, splitting fees, paying commissions to anyone, or receiving the same from anyone (other than someone connected with your practice) in connection with work performed on a patient
- Engaging in "any behavior with sexual connotations" with a patient, including making sexually related comments, inappropriate touching, or failing to respect the patient's privacy
- Failing to give a treatment plan with costs to a patient who requests one
- Using pre-printed or stamped-signature prescription forms
- Violating any law dealing with the prescription, storage, or use of controlled substances
- Making an agreement with a patient that would restrict them from filing a complaint about you with the Oregon Board of Dentistry
- Deceiving or attempting to deceive the Board of Dentistry in the course of filing any license application or renewal
- Practicing while impaired, whether by alcohol, marijuana, or prescription or non-prescription drugs
You can also be disciplined for failing to cooperate with a Board of Dentistry investigation, for failing to self-report your own violations of Oregon's Dental Practice Act, and for attempting to deceive the board or for making any untrue statement during the course of a Board of Dentistry investigation, among other things.
As you can see, there are a number of potential grounds for a dentist to be disciplined in Oregon. It can be extremely helpful to your defense to work with an experienced professional license attorney who understands the many rules, regulations, and procedures that apply in dentist misconduct investigations and disciplinary proceedings in Oregon. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team includes attorneys who understand what's at stake, have helped others in a similar situation defend their licenses, and can help you do the same if a misconduct complaint is filed against you.
Don't Assume the Truth Will Protect You From Dental License Sanctions in Oregon
If you've received a notice that a misconduct claim has been filed against you and that an investigation is beginning, your (very natural) first reaction might be along the lines of "This is just a big misunderstanding" and "I'm sure when I explain the situation, this will all go away."
Unfortunately, this strategy doesn't always work and sometimes can backfire. Investigators don't always ask clear questions, for one. This can result in you giving answers that are unintentionally misleading, answers that respond to the question you thought the investigator was asking. Similarly, if you're not used to the pressure of being interviewed where your dental license may be on the line, you may give unclear answers to the investigator's questions that can later be interpreted the wrong way.
Having an experienced professional license defense attorney with you when you're interviewed can make a big difference in the outcome of the interview in several ways. First, your attorney can make sure that the investigator's questions are clear before you answer them, which may involve some back-and-forth with the investigator to clarify any ambiguous parts of a question before you can answer it. Second, if you give an answer that isn't clear or that doesn't address all of the questions, your lawyer can help you correct or add to your answer so that the investigator has all of the information– including your side of the story, where that's relevant and helpful – that relates to the misconduct claim. Finally, not all questions are fair or permissible, and your attorney can make sure that the investigator "plays by the rules" during the interview process.
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team includes attorneys with years of experience representing clients involved in disciplinary investigation interviews and other types of question-and-answer situations. We are here to help make sure that if you are involved in a misconduct investigation, you are treated fairly, that your rights are respected, and that you are able to mount as strong a defense as possible.
The Adjudication Process for Dentist Licensing Issues in Oregon
Assuming that a misconduct complaint is one that the Board of Dentistry is responsible for, the board will assign the complaint to an investigator. The investigator may interview you, the person who filed the complaint, and your co-workers, supervisors, and others who may have information about the alleged misconduct. The investigator may also review work and other types of records related to the complaint. If the complaint can't be sufficiently substantiated, the Board of Dentistry will close the matter. If it can, however, the board may file charges against you.
If charges are filed, you'll be notified of the charges and the facts supporting them, though the notification may only summarize the facts instead of providing every detail. Proceedings at this point are governed by Oregon's Administrative Procedures Act.
Soon after being charged, you may also be offered the opportunity to settle the matter without a hearing. This sort of "informal disposition" is one where you will agree that certain facts are true, and you accept a certain Board of Dentistry sanction as a consequence. Whether or not to accept an offer of this type is not a decision you should make without the help of an experienced professional license defense attorney.
Your attorney may review the offer and recommend that you accept it; on the other hand, if the facts support it, your lawyer may also try to negotiate with the Board of Dentistry for better terms. Or, if you have a strong case, your lawyer may recommend that you proceed to the hearing stage. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can provide you with the help and advice you need to consider informal disposition offers in dental discipline cases.
If a hearing is to take place, it will "feel" very much like a court proceeding, with witnesses and cross-examination, documentary evidence and objections to the same, and sometimes opening and closing oral arguments. You have the right to be represented by an attorney at the proceeding, and once it's complete, the hearing officer will issue a ruling that will be in writing and will include the facts supporting the decision.
If the ruling is in your favor, the case is over, and you may be entitled to have some or all of your attorney's fees and costs paid for by the state. If it goes against you, you will have the opportunity to appeal it.
What Happens if You Are Disciplined by the Oregon Board of Dentistry?
As noted above, the Board of Dentistry has a number of options when it comes to methods of disciplining you if you're found to have committed misconduct. It can:
- Suspend judgment against you pending your completion of a course or courses or your taking some other action required by the board
- Place you on probation for some defined period of time
- Suspend your license for some period of time, with reinstatement typically conditioned on you completing one or more practice-related courses
- Limit your ability to perform certain procedures, at least until you have taken required courses, so that your skills have improved in those areas
- Revoke your license completely or prohibit you from renewing it
If you are being disciplined by the Board of Dentistry, your attorney may be able to help you negotiate with the board to arrive at a result that will either keep your license in force or minimize the amount of time you are suspended from practice. If you're required to complete certain courses before you can resume your practice, your lawyer can help make sure you take the proper course and that the board is notified as soon as you successfully complete it.
How the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team Can Help
The attorneys who make up the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team have years of experience helping professional license holders in Oregon navigate complicated and stressful misconduct investigations and proceedings. Whether you practice in Portland, Eugene, Salem, Bend, Corvallis, or another city or town in Oregon, our experienced professional license defense attorneys are able to help you understand the charges against you, cooperate fairly with the investigation process, and defend your rights during any settlement discussions or hearings.
Your professional license is the key to your present livelihood and your future prosperity. The dental misconduct process in Oregon is complicated and stressful. You need the help of an experienced professional license attorney who can help shoulder the burden and make sure your rights are protected. Call the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team today at 888.535.3686, or reach out to us online through our contact form to set up a confidential consultation. We are here to listen and to help!