The path to becoming a licensed dentist is a long and arduous one. You've invested years of time and thousands of dollars on your education, and now having obtained your license, you hold a position that relies heavily on public trust. In the State of Pennsylvania, allegations of wrongdoing are considered a violation of that trust. The Pennsylvania State Board of Dentistry oversees licensing and disciplinary matters for the dental profession, and they take those allegations very seriously. A single complaint can escalate into full disciplinary action--up to and including revoking your license to practice dentistry.
If you find yourself under investigation by the Board, it is important to seek out experienced legal counsel right away. An attorney who specializes in professional license defense can help you navigate the complex disciplinary process and protect your interests. Pennsylvania Attorney has extensive experience helping dentists and other licensed professionals whose licenses are under scrutiny. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case and your options.
What Types of Allegations Could Call Your Dentist's License into Question?
Most allegations that could endanger a dentist's license to practice will have something to do with a violation of ethics, law, or public trust. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Unprofessional conduct. A broad range of offenses come under this category, such as false advertising, patient record alteration, filing fraudulent insurance claims, and unprofessionalism with patients.
- Sexual misconduct. Making unwanted sexual advances toward staff or patients, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or inappropriate romantic relationships with patients are examples of sexual conduct.
- Substance abuse. One of the most common offenses that result in license discipline for dentists is alcohol or drug abuse, which can impair one's judgment when treating patients and put them at risk. If the Board has reason to believe your substance abuse affects your competence, it may suspend or revoke your license.
- Criminal convictions. Certain criminal offenses (such as DUI or crimes of moral turpitude) may disqualify you from holding a dentistry license. You can also be disciplined for failing to report to the board if you have recently been arrested.
- Inappropriate handling of medications. Some examples of illegitimate prescribing are writing prescriptions without a legitimate reason, keeping inaccurate inventories, and taking medications for personal use or illegal sale.
- Violating standards of care. Examples include misdiagnosing patients or being grossly negligent in providing care.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Dentists in Pennsylvania?
The state of Pennsylvania has a uniform procedure for addressing complaints about licensed professionals and deciding on penalties. Any member of the public may file a formal complaint with the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) concerning any licensed professional. In the case of dentists, most complaints come from patients, colleagues, coworkers, or in some cases, insurers. From there, the disciplinary process moves forward with the following steps.
After a complaint has been received and reviewed by the BPOA, an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) will be assigned to the investigation. The investigator may interview the complainant and witnesses, subpoena documents, etc. You will likely be asked to respond in writing to the complaint. If the investigation uncovers insufficient evidence to support the complaint, the Board of Dentistry will likely drop the matter. If, however, the evidence justifies possible disciplinary action, however, the case will move forward.
If there is enough evidence against you to warrant disciplinary action, the Board might offer to negotiate a consent agreement with you as an alternative to formal proceedings. Under this agreement, you would effectively admit to wrongdoing and accept any penalties the Board may recommend. A consent agreement may be a good option if disciplinary action is likely, especially if it provides for the eventual reinstatement of your license. It is not always the best option, however, so it is a good idea to consult an attorney before you sign a consent agreement.
The next step in the process is for you to appear at a formal hearing before a state examiner to show cause why you should not face disciplinary action. You may be represented by an attorney at this hearing. The examiner will then make recommendations to the Board of Dentistry about any recommended disciplinary actions. Based on the hearing's findings, your discipline may range from a mild reprimand to a complete revocation of your dentist's license.
Why You Need a Pennsylvania Dentist License Defense Attorney
Once the BPOA receives a complaint against you, you are at a disadvantage. The State Board of Dentistry has sweeping authority to administer discipline and a relatively low burden of proof to determine whether you committed wrongdoing. You can't count on a presumption of innocence because the Board's duty is to protect the public, not you. Even your responses to the complaint or any attempts to negotiate with the Board on your own could backfire and be used against you.
An experienced license defense attorney can help put you back on equal footing and give you a fair chance at keeping your license intact. Your lawyer can review the complaint and draft a persuasive written response (which may be sufficient on its own to get the complaint dismissed if accompanied by supporting evidence). Your lawyer will help you navigate the entire disciplinary process while ensuring your rights are protected and negotiating for the best possible outcome. In short, hiring the right attorney could save both your license and your career as a dentist.
As a dentist practicing in Pennsylvania, your career hinges on your license. If you are notified of an investigation against you, don't take unnecessary risks with your career. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can greatly improve your chances of emerging from the allegations unscathed. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.