The Lento Law Firm Can Help Protect Your Arizona Dentistry License
Obtaining a license to practice dentistry in Arizona already shows a high level of dedication to your profession. Now, your dentistry license is the key to your livelihood, as well as a symbol of all you've done to meet Arizona's stringent professional and ethical standards and earn public trust.
That's why it can be so devastating to learn that someone has filed a complaint against you with the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners and that your license is now in question. Regardless of whether the complaint is based on a misunderstanding, a misstep, or an outright falsehood, the Board has an obligation to investigate the matter thoroughly--and if they believe any wrongdoing has occurred, they have the authority to invoke disciplinary action against you, up to and including revoking your license to practice.
Fortunately, you don't have to go through this process alone. Your best hope of keeping your license intact is to get help from an experienced professional license defense attorney well-versed with Arizona's disciplinary proceedings. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has extensive experience in defending licensed professionals, including GP dentists, across Arizona and the nation. We will evaluate your case, suggest potential strategies, negotiate with the Board for leniency, and work towards achieving a favorable outcome. To schedule a consultation, reach us at 888-535-3686.
How Dentists in Arizona Are Regulated
In Arizona, the State Board of Dental Examiners is in charge of regulating the practice of dentistry in Arizona. Licensed dentists are expected to comply with state standards for the practice of dentistry as detailed in The Dental Practice Act and other statutes under which the Board operates. It has the authority to issue licenses to practice, enforce practice and care standards, and also to impose disciplinary actions as needed. That can include license suspension or revocation.
Common Causes for License Revocation for Dentists in Arizona
A majority of accusations leading to license revocation stem from alleged breaches of the Dental Practice Act and Board Rules, as mentioned above. Common allegations include:
- Fraudulent Activities: Examples include illegal insurance claims "upcoding," overbilling patients or insurers, billing for services not provided, operating without a valid license or accepting referral kickbacks.
- Sexual Misconduct with a Patient: Romantic involvement with a patient under your care can lead to serious ethical violations and possible loss of license.
- Substance Abuse: Drug and alcohol abuse can cast doubt on your judgment when treating patients, and in certain cases, it can be grounds for loss of license--especially if you are reported as being under the influence while on the job.
- Gross Negligence: Examples of negligence include incorrect or incomplete patient diagnoses, mistakes in prescribing medicines or dosages, failure to provide necessary follow-up treatments, or incompetently performed procedures resulting in harm to patients.
- Criminal Convictions: Certain criminal offenses, particularly felonies and crimes involving moral turpitude, can disqualify you from holding a dentist's license in Arizona. Not reporting any conviction to the Board can also lead to disciplinary action, whether or not that offense would have resulted in loss of license.
Do All Allegations of Misconduct Result in Loss of License?
No, they don't. The Board assesses various factors when deciding disciplinary action, and they may, at their discretion, impose lesser sanctions that still allow you to keep your dental license for the long term. These include:
- License Suspension: A temporary halt of your practice.
- Practice Limitations or Probation: This might require limiting your professional activities or prohibiting certain practices, possibly under supervision.
- Financial Penalties: The Board can impose fines for regulation violations.
- Reprimand/Letter of Concern: For minor offenses, the Board might issue an official warning, which becomes part of your record but does not limit your license.
Bear in mind, however, that even these lesser penalties can impact your career adversely as they become part of your public record, which may be accessible to potential patients, employers, healthcare institutions, and licensing boards in other states, affecting your ability to practice. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can intercede early in the investigation process to mitigate these risks and possibly prevent sanctions from appearing on your record.
Reporting to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB)
In addition to publicizing any actions taken against your license, the Board is mandated to report any disciplinary actions to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), a national database that shares pertinent information about medical professionals (including dentists). This data can be accessed online by potential employers and state licensing boards in other states, which could make it much harder to secure employment or get a license elsewhere. Again, through early intervention, the Lento Law Firm Team can often negotiate to resolve licensing board issues or minimize penalties before these reports are made.
Areas We Serve in Arizona
At the Lento Law Firm, our Professional License Defense Team offers representation to dentists and other licensed professionals throughout Arizona who are grappling with license and credential defense concerns. While we extend our services to every town and city in Arizona, a significant proportion of our clientele is located in the state's major urban areas. These include:
Phoenix/Valley of the Sun
Phoenix, the state capital and largest city in Arizona, is a lively hub attracting people with its year-round sunny weather. As the cultural and economic epicenter of the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix accommodates approximately 1.6 million of the metropolitan area's combined population of 5 million – over two-thirds of Arizona's total population. With its rich blend of Native American heritage, Old West traditions, and modern cosmopolitan style, Phoenix offers the best of desert living to residents and visitors alike.
The second-largest city in Arizona (home to 544,000), Tucson is located on the western fringes of the Sonoran Desert. Also known as "The Old Pueblo," this sprawling desert oasis offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities such as golf, hiking, rock climbing, and hot-air ballooning. Tucson is home to the University of Arizona, and the city's vibrant downtown is a popular destination for nightlife, restaurants, and cultural attractions.
Mesa is a bustling city of nearly 512,000 residents on the eastern outskirts of Phoenix. Known as "the Heart of Arizona," this growing suburb offers plenty of outdoor attractions and recreational activities such as fishing, boating, camping, horseback riding, and golf courses. The city also features an eclectic mix of culture and art museums and galleries highlighting its colorful Native American and Mexican ancestry.
Located in the southern part of the Valley of Sun, Chandler is a vibrant city with a population of more than 280,000 residents. With its warm climate and ample sunshine, Chandler offers an attractive destination for outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, boating, golfing, and hiking trails. The city is also known as an economic hub largely driven by the tech industry.
Situated in the north-central part of Arizona along historic Route 66, Flagstaff is a city of 78,000 inhabitants at an elevation of 7,000 feet. This mountain settlement attracts many residents and visitors to enjoy numerous outdoor activities surrounded by stunning scenery. Flagstaff is also home to numerous archaeological sites featuring Native American ruins and rock art. The charming town center offers unique shops, art galleries, and restaurants to explore.
The Disciplinary Process for Dentists in Arizona
The Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners follows a specific set of protocols and procedures for investigating complaints and enforcing disciplinary actions. If you're a dentist holding an Arizona license and facing accusations of misconduct, you can expect your case to move through the following stages.
Almost all disciplinary proceedings against dentists are initiated with a complaint filed against you with the State Board of Dental Examiners. While any member of the public can initiate a complaint, they usually come from patients or their relatives, your colleagues, other healthcare professionals, or anyone who suspects that you have violated state rules.
Once the Board receives a complaint, it will conduct an initial review to make sure the complaint falls within its purview. (For example, complaints about negligent care or substance abuse will move forward, while complaints about rudeness or bedside manner are generally dismissed.
Next, the Board will assign an investigator to look for evidence to support the complaint. This stage may involve interviews with the complainant and potential witnesses, soliciting a formal response from you, issuing of document subpoenas, etc.
Next, the results of the investigation will be turned over to the Board's Internal Investigative Review Committee (IIRC) for review. The IIRC will examine the evidence, decide whether there's probable cause to initiate disciplinary action and present their recommendations to the Board.
If the evidence against you is particularly compelling, the Board may offer to negotiate a consent agreement to avoid having a formal hearing on the matter. A consent agreement typically includes an admission of guilt, along with applicable fines and probationary restrictions. If you accept the terms, you can sign the agreement and avoid a lengthy disciplinary proceeding. While consent agreements aren't always the best option, they do present opportunities for your attorney to negotiate for leniency, mitigate damage to your license, and, if your license is suspended or revoked, negotiate a conditional path toward reinstatement.
If the Board does not offer a consent agreement or if you choose to reject it, the Board will then adjudicate your case publicly at its bi-monthly meeting. You'll have the option of appearing (preferably with an attorney) to present your side of the story and show cause why your license should remain intact. The Board will then vote either to dismiss the complaint or to impose recommended disciplinary actions--up to and including revoking your license to practice.
The Value of Legal Counsel in License Defense
While self-representation in license disciplinary proceedings is always an option, it's generally not recommended. The Board's main objective is to protect public health and safety, and they only need to prove your guilt based on the preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt. Licensing boards can make mistakes in their decisions, whether due to misinterpretation of evidence, inadequate investigations, or even general bias against you. Hiring a seasoned license defense attorney can level the playing field and significantly enhance your chances of emerging from the disciplinary process with your dentistry license intact.
The Professional License Defense Team of the Lento Law Firm can assist in the following ways:
- Examine the complaint and evidence against you and devise a strategic plan to counter it;
- Guide you on your options and the most effective strategy to resolve your case;
- Collect evidence and call on witnesses in your defense;
- Negotiate with the Board at various stages to get the complaint dismissed or secure less severe penalties and
- Represent you at the adjudication hearing, if necessary.
Safeguarding Your Arizona Dentistry License With the Lento Law Firm
As a licensed dentist in Arizona, the mere existence of a complaint can potentially jeopardize your livelihood, irrespective of whether the complaint has merit. By enlisting our Professional License Defense Team at the earliest sign of trouble, you significantly improve your chances of negotiating a more favorable outcome, ideally one that preserves your license. The Lento Law Firm Team has nationwide experience defending dentists and other licensed professionals successfully, even in complex or difficult situations. Act now to protect your career. To discuss your case and explore your options, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or reach out via our online form.