The Lento Law Firm Can Help Protect Your Dentist License in California
Considering all the work you've done to build your career as a licensed dentist in California, it can be both intimidating and disheartening to receive notice that the Dental Board of California has received a complaint against you and is probing possible misconduct. To be honest, your concern is warranted. Even if the complaint lodged against you stems from a false accusation or a simple misunderstanding, the Board maintains a firm commitment to public safety and enforces strict ethical and professional standards for its licensed dentists. If the Board finds that you have violated state practice standards, broken the law, or put patients at risk, they hold the power to impose disciplinary action, which could lead to your license being revoked.
While this is an uncertain time for you, one thing is clear--a matter of this gravity should not be left in the hands of an unseasoned attorney. An experienced professional license defense attorney who is well-versed in California's disciplinary processes offers your best hope of getting through the disciplinary process with your license to practice intact.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team has extensive experience defending dentists and other licensed professionals, both in California and nationwide. We will evaluate your case, brief you on potential strategies, negotiate with the Board for leniency on your behalf, and work towards securing the most favorable outcome for you. Reach out to our offices at 888-535-3686 now to arrange a consultation.
Regulation of Licensed Dentists in California
Dentists in California are licensed and regulated by the Dental Board of California, a division of the Department of Consumer Affairs. Dentists are expected to abide by the standards set forth in the Dental Practice Act and the Dental Board Regulations. These laws also codify the authority of the Board to issue licenses, enforce practice standards, and impose disciplinary actions (aka, sanctions) for violations--up to and including license suspension or revocation.
National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB)
If the Board sanctions you for any reason, it becomes a matter of public record, even if the sanction itself is minor. To make matters worse, the Board is required to report any action taken against your dentist license to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). These details will be visible online and searchable by patients, employers, and other state medical boards. Securing the legal services of an experienced professional license defense attorney can help protect your interests and prevent these outcomes. The Lento Law Firm Team has extensive experience with these issues and is prepared to help.
What Can Cause a Dentist to Lose Their License in California?
Most accusations against dentists that could result in loss of license stem from some alleged violation of the Dental Practice Act or Board Regulations. Some of the common allegations that could endanger your license include (but are not limited to):
- Fraudulent Practices: Fraud can manifest in various forms, such as illegal “upcoding” of insurance claims, overcharging patients or insurers, false patient diagnoses for insurance purposes, billing for non-rendered services, or accepting referral kickbacks.
- Sexual Misconduct with a Patient: Becoming romantically involved with a patient under your care is a grave ethical violation that can result in loss of license.
- Substance Abuse: If someone observes you under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on the job, it is potential grounds for loss of your dental license.
- Criminal Convictions: Certain criminal offenses, particularly felonies and crimes of moral turpitude, can disqualify you from holding a dentist's license. Failure to self-report any conviction to the Board can also lead to disciplinary action, even if the offense itself would not have endangered your license.
- Gross Negligence: Examples may include making a wrong or incomplete diagnosis, prescribing the wrong medication or dose, failing to provide follow-up treatments as required, or performing procedures incompetently in a way that causes damage.
Accusations Don't Always Result in License Termination
It's important to recognize that while all allegations of misconduct are severe and warrant attention, they don't always lead to the loss of a license. The Board takes into account a variety of factors when determining disciplinary action, and many lesser sanctions may still permit you to practice as a dentist. Examples of such actions include:
- License Suspension: This is a temporary halt to your practice.
- Practice Limitations or Probation: This could involve narrowing your professional activities or prohibiting certain practices. It may also involve supervision.
- Financial Penalties: The Board has the authority to impose fines.
- Reprimand: For less serious offenses, the Board may issue an official warning, which will be part of your record but does not limit your license.
Bear in mind that even these lesser penalties can cast a shadow over your career because they become part of your public record. They are accessible to prospective patients, employers, healthcare institutions, and licensing boards in other states. They can deter collaboration and hinder professional advancement. The Professional License Defense Team at Lento Law Firm often steps in early in the investigation process to minimize these risks and potentially prevent sanctions from appearing on your record.
Areas We Serve in California
With a combined population of more than 39 million, California is by far the most populous state in the Union. As such, there is a constant demand for high-quality dental care and ample opportunities for dentists to practice. While the Lento Law Firm Team can assist dentists facing disciplinary action anywhere in the state, most of our clients understandably reside and work in the state's larger population centers, which include:
Los Angeles/Southern California
Los Angeles (the “City of Angels”), often abbreviated as LA, is the largest city in California and the second-largest in America. The city proper is home to 3.9 million, but LA anchors a sprawling metropolitan area that exceeds 13.2 million residents, making it the second largest metro behind New York City. Best known for being the hub of the nation's film and television industry, LA houses prominent landmarks such as Hollywood, Universal Studios, and the iconic Hollywood Sign.
San Francisco Bay Area
The second major population center of California, the Bay Area, is anchored by San Francisco to the north (population 808,000) and San Jose to the south (population 1 million)--but the nine-county area is home to approximately 7.76 million. Between the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and iconic Victorian homes, San Francisco is one of the most recognizable cities in the world. Bay Area attractions such as Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz Island draw millions of tourists each year.
San Diego, the second-largest city in California, boasts a population of over 1.4 million residents. Known for its mild year-round climate, natural deep-water harbor, extensive beaches, and the renowned San Diego Zoo, the city is a major hub for tourism. San Diego's economy is powered by defense/military, tourism, international trade, and research/healthcare, providing a sturdy economic base for its dentists and other healthcare practitioners.
Fresno sits in California's San Joaquin Valley, near the geographical center of the state. It has over half a million residents, making it the fifth-largest city in the state. The city is known for its agricultural abundance, anchoring a diverse range of surrounding large-scale farms and vineyards, and is often considered the food capital of the world. Fresno is also the gateway to Yosemite National Park and is home to the unique Forestiere Underground Gardens.
Located along the river bearing its name, Sacramento is the state capital of California and the fourth-largest city in the state. The population exceeds 540,000, with over 2.6 million in its surrounding metropolitan area. Known as “America's Farm-to-Fork Capital,” Sacramento is home to a thriving restaurant scene, dozens of craft breweries, and numerous antique stores that line the historic Old Sacramento Waterfront.
The Dentist Disciplinary Procedure in California
The Dental Board of California follows a set process for license enforcement and discipline of those accused of misconduct. As a practicing dentist in California, you may face the following steps if professional misconduct allegations are made against you.
Disciplinary actions usually begin with a formal complaint filed against you with the Board. Such complaints can originate from a variety of sources, including patients, their families, fellow dental professionals, insurance firms, and others. Furthermore, California offers an online portal that makes it extremely easy for anyone to file a complaint.
If the Board's initial review uncovers a potential violation of the Dentist Practice Act or Board Regulations, they assign an investigator to gather evidence supporting the accusations. This phase may involve activities like interviewing the complainant and witnesses, soliciting your written response, issuing document subpoenas, and conducting site inspections.
Submission of Formal Complaint
When the investigation is complete, the investigator reports their findings to the Board. If the investigation reveals evidence of misconduct, the Board will file a formal legal complaint against you with the Office of the Attorney General stating the alleged misconduct. You'll be notified of the complaint and informed of your right to contest the allegations at a hearing.
If the evidence against you is substantial, the Board and Deputy Attorney General may propose negotiating a stipulated agreement instead of a formal hearing. By entering this binding agreement, you acknowledge fault and agree to the Board's disciplinary suggestions. While not suitable for everyone and any penalties still become public record, it provides an opportunity for your attorney to negotiate a more favorable outcome, ideally allowing license retention or paving the way for reinstatement.
In the absence of a stipulated agreement, the case proceeds to a formal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The Board presents its case and evidence against you, and you'll have an opportunity to present your defense. It's highly recommended that you have an attorney represent you at this hearing. Once all arguments and evidence have been presented, the ALJ submits a Proposed Decision to the Board.
After the hearing, the Board has the final say as to what disciplinary action to take against you, if any. They will vote on the Proposed Decision and finalize the proposed sanctions against you.
At any stage of this disciplinary process, the Board has the power to resolve, settle, or dismiss the complaint against you. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can engage in strategic negotiations throughout the disciplinary process, often helping clients resolve complaints before they escalate to the hearing stage.
Why You Need a Lawyer
While self-representation in license disciplinary proceedings is your right, it's generally not recommended. The primary goal of the Board is to protect public health and safety, and they only need to prove your guilt based on a preponderance of the evidence. Licensing boards commonly err in their decisions, whether based on a misinterpretation of the evidence, failed due diligence during the investigation, or even sheer bias against you. Retaining an experienced license defense attorney can help balance the scales and significantly impact your case's outcome. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm will:
- Evaluate the complaint and evidence against you and devise a strategic plan to challenge it;
- Counsel you on your options and the best strategy for resolving your case;
- Collect evidence and solicit witnesses in your defense;
- Negotiate with the Board at various stages to get the complaint dismissed or secure milder penalties;
- Bargain for favorable terms in a stipulated agreement; and
- Defend you at the formal hearing, if necessary.
The Lento Law Firm: Protecting Your California Dentist's License
As a licensed dentist in California, your license is the key to your livelihood. Regardless of the validity of the allegations against you, the existence of a complaint inherently puts your livelihood in danger. By involving the Lento Law Firm Team at the earliest sign of trouble, you significantly increase your chances of negotiating a more favorable outcome, preferably one that preserves your license.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has nationwide experience defending professionals like you who are dealing with disciplinary proceedings against their license. Act now to protect your future. To discuss your case and explore your options, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or reach out via our online form.