The Lento Law Firm Can Defend Your Dental License in Arkansas
Becoming a licensed dentist in Arkansas is no small feat. You had to get a college degree, take the MCAT or DAT exam to qualify for admission to dental school, spend four years in dental school, and then take another grueling exam, the INBDE, to qualify for state licensure.
Considering all you've gone through just to start your career in dentistry, facing the possibility of professional license suspension or revocation is a daunting scenario, to put it mildly. A single complaint filed against you with the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners (ASBDE) can quickly escalate into a disruptive investigation, leading eventually to disciplinary actions--including the possibility of having your dental license revoked. With no license, your career is effectively ended.
Fortunately, you're not without options. The most effective way to avert loss of license is to engage a skilled professional license attorney as soon as you're notified of a complaint. The Professional License Defense Team at The Lento Law Firm has a proven track record of defending dentists and other licensed professionals throughout Arkansas and across the nation. We have a comprehensive understanding of Arkansas' license disciplinary process and can use this knowledge to minimize potential damage to your career. To book a consultation, please call us at 888-535-3686.
Regulation of Licensed Dentists in Arkansas
The Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners (which is under the administration of the state's Department of Health) is tasked with licensing and regulating dentists and dental hygienists throughout the state. Dentists are held to quality standards of practice as set forth in the Dental Practice Act, and they are also required to adhere to all Rules and Regulations as prescribed by the Board. The Board is granted authority to enforce these practices and to impose disciplinary action for violations of the Dental Practice Act and/or Board Rules and Regulations.
What Accusations Might Lead to Losing My Dental License?
The majority of situations where licensed dentists in Arkansas could lose their license arise from various Dental Practice Act violations or other breaches of public trust. Typical examples include, but are not limited to:
- Deceptive Practices/Fraud: These include violations such as insurance claim "upcoding," charging for services not rendered, practicing without a valid license, exceeding your license's scope of practice, false advertising, etc.
- Sexual Misconduct: A romantic and/or sexual relationship with a patient under your care is seen as a severe ethical violation and could result in license termination.
- Gross Negligence: Examples of negligence include erroneous patient diagnoses, errors in prescribing medication, improperly executed procedures, or anything else that either causes harm to patients or puts them at unnecessary risk.
- Substance Abuse/Addiction: Substance abuse can threaten your license as it calls into question your ability to make prudent decisions while treating patients. Being reported as under the influence while on the job can be particularly damning.
- Criminal Convictions: Certain criminal offenses, especially felonies and crimes of moral turpitude, can disqualify you from possessing a dentist's license in Arkansas.
Possible Lesser Penalties for Misconduct
If you're a dentist accused of wrongdoing in Arkansas, loss of license is not necessarily a given—in fact, it's the last resort. The Board will consider all factors and circumstances when weighing appropriate disciplinary actions, many of which may allow you to keep your license. Examples of lesser sanctions include:
- Practice Restrictions: The ASBDE might limit the scope of your practice.
- Probation: The ASBDE can impose strict monitoring of your practice for up to 18 months.
- Fines: The ASBDE can impose fines of up to $1000 per violation.
- Formal Reprimand: For minor violations, the ASBDE might issue a formal reprimand, which becomes part of your record but does not limit your license.
- Suspension: In some cases, the Board may suspend your license for a time rather than permanently revoke it.
While many of these penalties do not constitute permanent loss of your dental license, they can still potentially impact your career negatively. Most disciplinary actions become part of your public professional record and may be visible to future patients, employers, healthcare institutions, and licensing boards in other states. The Board also has a duty to 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. Early intervention by the Lento Law Firm Team can often help you avoid or lessen penalties before such reports are submitted to the NPDB.
Areas We Serve in Arkansas
While many think of Arkansas as a relatively rural state (e.g., the famed Ozark Mountains), the population centers of the state are hubs for education and commerce. With a population exceeding 3 million people, the State of Arkansas provides plenty of career opportunities for dentists. While the Lento Law Firm can help dentists in any municipality in Arkansas who are facing possible discipline, many of our clients understandably can be found in the larger communities across the state. These include but are not limited to, the following.
Nestled along the banks of the Arkansas River in the central part of the state, Little Rock is both the capital city of Arkansas and its largest city--home to more than 200,000 but anchoring a larger metro area of nearly a quarter million people. Boasting a blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication, Little Rock is famous for landmarks such as the Clinton Presidential Center, the Old State House Museum, and the Arkansas State Capitol. Little Rock also played a significant role in American civil rights history, particularly remembered for the "Little Rock Nine" students who integrated Central High School in 1957.
While Fayetteville is the second-largest city in Arkansas (population 99,000), the Northwest Arkansas (NWA) metropolitan area surrounding it has become one of the fastest-growing metros in the country thanks to several Fortune 500 companies headquartered there. With a current combined population of 576,000, the NWA (which also includes Bentonville, Rogers, and Springdale) saw its population double between 1990-2010. Located in the stunning Ozark Mountains, Fayetteville is a dynamic city known for its vibrant arts scene, outdoor recreation, and exceptional quality of life. The city is home to the University of Arkansas, contributing to an atmosphere of youthful energy and intellectual curiosity. Bentonville, just a short drive away, hosts the world-renowned Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the headquarters of Walmart.
Fort Smith, situated along the Arkansas-Oklahoma border, is a city steeped in rich history. Known as the gateway to the Wild West, it was once a frontier military post and now hosts numerous historical sites, including the Fort Smith National Historic Site and the U.S. Marshals Museum. The city is also known today for its vibrant music and arts scene, with an array of galleries, theatres, and music venues. The surrounding area offers a wealth of outdoor activities, from fishing and boating on the Arkansas River to exploring the stunning Ozark Mountains.
The Disciplinary Process for Dentists in Arkansas
The Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners is responsible for enforcement of practice standards and imposing disciplinary actions against dentists. If you face accusations of misconduct, the case will follow a series of stages as outlined below.
Almost every disciplinary action against an Arkansas-licensed dentist begins with a formal complaint lodged with the ASBDE. Anyone can file a complaint, but for dentists, complaints usually originate from patients, their family members, colleagues, other healthcare professionals, and occasionally insurance companies (in instances of alleged fraud).
Upon receipt and verification that the complaint falls within its purview, the Board launches a formal investigation, the purpose of which is to look for evidence to corroborate the complaint. This process may involve actions such as requesting a formal response from you, interviewing the complainant and potential witnesses, issuing subpoenas for documents, etc. If the evidence gathered doesn't convincingly support misconduct, the case may be dismissed at this point.
In cases where the evidence against you is compelling, the ASBDE may suggest negotiating a consent order as an alternative to a formal hearing. A consent order is a formal agreement in which you effectively admit to the alleged misconduct and voluntarily agree to the Board's proposed disciplinary measures. While this is not the best solution for every case, it may give your attorney an opportunity to negotiate with the Board for lenient or favorable terms, including either allowing you to keep your license or setting conditions for reinstatement. The Lento Law Firm Team can negotiate the most advantageous terms of a consent order if this is deemed the best course of action for you.
Formal Hearing and Determination
If your case advances to a formal hearing, the Board will meet to consider your case and determine whether disciplinary action is warranted. You will be given an opportunity to show cause why you should be permitted to keep your license. Since this is effectively your last opportunity to present your side of the story, it's highly recommended to have an attorney represent you for the hearing. At the conclusion, the ASBDE will make a final determination as to what disciplinary actions to impose, which may include fines, probation, suspension, or even a permanent revocation of your license.
Bear in mind that at any point in this process, the ASBDE has the authority either to dismiss the complaint or to agree to lesser penalties. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can engage in strategic negotiations with the ASBDE at various stages of the process to secure a fair and expedient resolution, often before the case reaches the hearing stage.
Why Do You Need an Attorney?
In license defense proceedings, there is no presumption of innocence if you're accused of wrongdoing. The primary goal of the ASBDE is to protect the public, and because they only need to prove your guilt based on a preponderance of the evidence, they have the ability to "err on the side of caution" when imposing discipline. While you're certainly entitled to represent yourself before the ASBDE, doing so may place you at a disadvantage.
It's also worth mentioning that Arkansas law is particularly unforgiving when it comes to dental licensing. The Dental Practice Act explicitly states that if the Board revokes a dental license, it cannot be reinstated. That means if the Board revokes your license, you'll never practice dentistry in the State of Arkansas again. That's a particularly severe outcome for not having to prove your guilt conclusively!
Retaining an experienced license defense attorney early on can help equalize this imbalance and significantly boost your chances of keeping your license. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team will:
- Assess the complaint and accompanying evidence against you;
- Devise a strategic plan to counter the allegations;
- Gather relevant evidence and procure witnesses for your defense;
- Provide wise counsel on your potential options and the most effective resolution strategy for your situation;
- Negotiate with the ASBDE at different stages for a dismissal of the complaint or to negotiate agreeable terms for a consent order and
- Represent you vigorously at a formal hearing, if necessary.
The Lento Law Firm: Safeguarding Your Dentistry Career
Whether a complaint against you stems from a miscommunication, an error in judgment, or a baseless accusation, the danger to your dentistry license cannot be overstated. The best way to prevent permanent damage to your career is by enlisting our Professional License Defense Team at the first sign of trouble. By taking action now, you can significantly improve the odds of achieving a more favorable outcome and keeping your license. The Lento Law Firm Team has a nationwide reputation for success in defending dentists and other licensed professionals facing allegations of misconduct. Don't gamble with your profession and livelihood by handling this problem alone. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us via our online form.