The Lento Law Firm Can Defend Your Dental License in Alaska
As a practicing dentist in Alaska, the potential suspension or revocation of your professional license can be an alarming prospect. You've worked very hard to get to this point in your career; between years of education, grueling exams, and even more years building a patient list, becoming a successful dentist has been no small feat. And yet, ironically, a single allegation of misconduct reported to the Alaska Board of Dental Examiners can upend all that hard work by sparking an intrusive investigation that could easily lead to disciplinary action against your license.
The last thing you expected was for a simple misunderstanding, oversight, or mishap to threaten your license--but it happens to dentists across the country every day. There is no guaranteed presumption of innocence, and in Alaska, the Board of Dental Examiners can suspend or revoke a license based merely on the preponderance of the evidence.
Fortunately, there are proactive steps you can take to avoid a disastrous outcome for your career. By engaging a skilled professional license attorney at the first sign of trouble, you can greatly improve your chances of a favorable resolution. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team has extensive experience defending dentists and other licensed professionals throughout Alaska and across the country. We have a deep knowledge of Alaska's license disciplinary process, and we use that knowledge to minimize potential damage to your career. Contact us at 888-535-3686 or reach out online to arrange a consultation.
Dentistry Regulation in Alaska
In Alaska, the dental profession is overseen by the Board of Dental Examiners, which in turn is governed by the Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing (the "Division"). The Board and all licensed dentists are held to the regulations and standards of practice set forth in the Statutes and Regulations for Dentists and Dental Hygienists, The Alaska Board of Dental Examiners oversees dentist licensure and makes disciplinary decisions regarding dentists found to be in violation of state regulations.
What Allegations Could Lead to License Revocation for Dentists?
Most accusations of misconduct resulting in loss of license will stem from some alleged violation of the state dental Statutes and Regulations or some other breach of public trust. Among the most common offenses are:
- Fraudulent Practices: Fraud encompasses various activities, such as insurance claim "upcoding", billing for unprovided services, practicing without a valid license, exceeding your license's scope of practice, or accepting referral kickbacks.
- Sexual Misconduct: Engaging in a romantic or sexual relationship with a patient under your care is deemed a serious ethical violation and can result in license termination.
- Substance Abuse/Addiction: Substance abuse can call into question your ability to make sound decisions while treating patients, and under certain conditions, it can form the basis for license revocation--especially if you're reported to be under the influence while at work.
- Gross Negligence: Potential negligence cases might involve inaccurate or incomplete patient diagnoses, errors in prescribing medication or dosages, failure to provide necessary follow-up treatments, or improperly performed procedures causing harm to patients.
- Criminal Convictions: Certain criminal offenses, particularly felonies and crimes of moral turpitude, can disqualify you from possessing a dentist's license in Alaska.
Possible Lesser Penalties for Misconduct
Not all misconduct allegations result in license revocation. The Board considers various factors when deciding disciplinary action against dentists, and they may opt for lesser sanctions that still allow you to maintain your dental license. These include:
- Suspension: The Board may suspend your license for a specified period of time.
- Probation: The Board could enforce strict monitoring for a specified duration.
- Civil Penalties: The Board has the authority to impose fines for regulatory violations.
- Continuing Education: The Board may require additional CE requirements as a condition of keeping your license.
- Formal Reprimand: For minor violations, the Board may issue a formal reprimand, which becomes part of your record but does not restrict your license.
However, be aware that even these lesser penalties can adversely impact your career as they become part of your public record, potentially visible to future patients, employers, healthcare institutions, and licensing Boards in other states. The Board must also report these actions to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), a national database of information on practicing health professionals. A negative report in this database can potentially hinder your chances of obtaining licensure or securing employment in another state. Prompt intervention by the Lento Law Firm Team can often help you avoid or reduce penalties before such reports are submitted to the NPDB.
Areas We Serve in Alaska
While Alaska is the largest state in the Union land-wise, it has the third-smallest population of any state, serving as home to nearly 734,000 residents total. Even so, there are ample opportunities for practicing dentists in this state. While the Lento Law Firm can assist dentists in virtually any city or municipality in Alaska, most of our clients understandably practice in the state's primary population centers. These include:
To say Anchorage is Alaska's largest city does not give the full picture. With a population of 291,000 in the city proper and a total metro population of just under 400,000, more than half of Alaska's total population lives in the Anchorage area. Located in the south-central part of the state, Anchorage serves as a gateway to the great wilderness of the Last Frontier. The city is surrounded by spectacular mountains, forests, and bodies of water, making it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Anchorage is also known for its landmarks, such as the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Flattop Mountain, and the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which offers insights into the area's indigenous cultures. Despite its remote location, Anchorage maintains a surprisingly cosmopolitan feel, providing all the amenities you'd expect from a mid-size city.
The second-largest city in Alaska, Fairbanks is located in the state's interior along the Tanana River and serves as a transportation hub for residents living in remote areas of the state. With a population of around 32,000, Fairbanks offers a more intimate community feel while still providing modern conveniences. The area is known for its unique attractions like the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System Visitor Center, the University of Alaska Museum of the North, and Chena Hot Springs Resort. Fairbanks is also a popular tourist destination, particularly for visitors seeking a glimpse of the northern lights.
Located in the panhandle region on the Gastineau Channel, Juneau is the only state capital in the U.S. that is only reachable by boat or plane. Home to just under 32,000 residents, Juneau offers a wealth of outdoor activities, from hiking on the scenic trails of Mount Roberts to wildlife spotting at the Mendenhall Glacier. Despite its small size, Juneau boasts a rich cultural scene with a vibrant arts community, historical museums, and diverse culinary options. It's a place where Alaskan heritage blends seamlessly with modern living, offering visitors a memorable experience.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Dentists in Alaska?
The Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing oversees the process of investigating and prosecuting misconduct violations for all the licensed professions it oversees, including dentists. The Board of Dental Examiners ultimately makes determinations on disciplinary actions once the Division has determined a violation took place. The entire disciplinary process moves through the following steps.
Initiation of a Complaint
Disciplinary proceedings almost always begin with the filing of a formal complaint with the Division. Any individual can lodge this complaint, but for dentists, complaints usually originate with patients, their family members, colleagues, other healthcare professionals, and occasionally insurance companies (in instances of suspected fraud).
Inquiry and Investigation
Once the Division receives the complaint and verifies that it is within its jurisdiction, the case is referred to the Investigations Unit for an inquiry to seek evidence to support the complaint. This stage may include actions like interviewing the complainant and potential witnesses, issuing subpoenas for documents, and more. If investigators find insufficient evidence to support the complaint, the case will be closed without further incident. If corroborative evidence is found, the case escalates to a formal investigation, and you are officially notified of the complaint against you.
Disposition of the Case
Once the investigation is formalized, the case against you can generally be resolved in one of two ways:
- Consent Agreement: This is a legal agreement between you and the state in which you acknowledge the misconduct and agree to submit to the Board's recommended disciplinary actions. Most complaints in Alaska are resolved through the negotiation of a consent agreement, and while it isn't the best solution for everyone, it does provide an opportunity for your license defense attorney to negotiate for leniency and the most favorable possible terms. Bear in mind, however, that a consent agreement is effectively an admission of guilt and becomes part of your record.
- Formal Accusation and Hearing: If you don't sign a consent agreement, the Division may refer the matter to an Associate Attorney General to file a formal accusation against you. You have the right to a formal hearing to plead your side of the story; this hearing is administered by the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). After both sides have presented their arguments and evidence, the OAH makes a recommendation to the Board as to possible disciplinary actions against you, ranging from dismissing the complaint to a full revocation of your license. The final decision regarding discipline, however, lies with the Board.
The important thing to remember about this process is that the Board has the authority at any point to dismiss the complaint and/or agree to more lenient sanctions against you. The License Defense Team of the Lento Law Firm can engage in strategic negotiations with the Board at multiple points in the process to bring about a fair and swift resolution, often before things ever reach the hearing stage.
The Importance of Legal Representation in Defending Your Alaska Dentist's License
While it is within your rights to respond on your own behalf to the complaint against you, you do so at your own risk. Because there's no presumption of innocence in these matters, and because the Board does not require incontrovertible proof of your guilt to rescind your license, you're effectively entering the process at a disadvantage. Without proper legal counsel, the chances of losing your license are much greater in the face of these allegations. Hiring a professional license defense attorney early in the process can level the playing field, protect your rights, and greatly improve your chances of resolving the matter in a way that allows you to keep your license.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help this process in the following ways:
- Evaluating the complaint and related evidence against you and developing a strategic defense plan;
- Compiling evidence and gathering witnesses to support your defense;
- Advising you on the range of options available and the optimal strategy for resolving your case;
- Engaging in negotiations with the Board at various junctures to pursue dismissal of the complaint or negotiate agreeable terms for a consent agreement; and
- Defending you vigorously at a formal hearing, if necessary.
Take Action to Protect Your Alaska Dentist's License
If you're accused of professional conduct, irrespective of the validity of the complaint, the threat to your license is real. The worst thing you could do is ignore it. Swift action is your best hope to prevent these allegations from inflicting lasting damage to your career. By enlisting our Professional License Defense Team at the earliest sign of trouble, you can substantially boost the odds of achieving a favorable outcome, ideally one that allows you to retain your license. The Lento Law Firm Team has a nationwide reputation for successfully defending dentists and other licensed professionals against allegations of misconduct. Connect with the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us via our online form.