The Lento Law Firm Team Can Defend Your Dental License in Delaware
Few things can be more daunting to a licensed professional than to be notified that their license is in danger of being suspended or revoked. If you're a licensed dentist in Delaware, all it may take is a single allegation of misconduct to open up a highly disruptive and stressful investigation. The Delaware Board of Dentistry and Dental Hygiene is duty-bound to safeguard the public's interest, and because of this, all complaints against licensed dentists in the state are taken quite seriously. The journey to becoming a dentist was no walk in the park for you, and now this issue has the potential to upend everything you've worked for. If the Board believes you have committed wrongdoing based only on a preponderance of the evidence, they are empowered to suspend or even revoke your dental license.
Fortunately, taking quick action now could potentially save your career. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has extensive experience in defending dentists and other licensed professionals throughout Delaware and nationwide. We understand the license disciplinary process in Delaware, and we can utilize this knowledge and work on your behalf to minimize the damage to your career. Your chances of keeping your dentist's license go up considerably with the Lento Law Firm Team in your corner. To schedule a consultation, contact us at 888-535-3686.
Legal Oversight of Dentists in Delaware
Licensed dentists in Delaware are overseen by the Delaware Board of Dentistry and Dental Hygiene, which in turn is regulated by the Division of Professional Regulation (DPR), which manages licensure and discipline for more than 54 professions statewide. The practice of dentistry is subject to state rules and regulations, which not only delineate the authority and responsibility of the Board but also spell out proper practices and disciplinary procedures for dentists. The Board has the authority to issue licenses, enforce practice norms, and execute disciplinary actions as needed, including license suspension or revocation.
What Allegations Could Lead to License Revocation for a Dentist?
Licensed dentists in Delaware can face disciplinary action (including loss of license) for a wide range of issues, mostly having to do with violation of state practice rules and/or breaking the public trust. Common examples include:
- Fraudulent Activities: Fraud can manifest in various ways, including insurance claim "upcoding," overbilling patients or insurers, charging for services not provided, practicing without a valid license, or receiving referral kickbacks.
- Substance Abuse/Addiction: Substance abuse can cast doubt on your capacity to make sound decisions when treating patients, and in certain cases, it can be grounds for license revocation—particularly if you're reported to be under the influence while on duty.
- Sexual Misconduct with Patients: Initiating a romantic and/or sexual relationship with a patient under your care is viewed as a grave ethical violation and can result in loss of license.
- Gross Negligence: Potential instances of negligence include inaccurate or incomplete patient diagnoses, errors in prescribing medication or dosages, failure to provide necessary follow-up treatments, or poorly performed procedures causing harm to patients.
- Criminal Convictions: Certain criminal offenses, especially felonies and crimes of moral turpitude, can render you ineligible for a dentist's license in Delaware.
Possible Lesser Penalties for Misconduct
Not every act of misconduct results in having one's dental license suspended or revoked. The Board considers numerous factors when deciding on disciplinary action against dentists, and they may opt for less severe sanctions that still allow you to keep your dental license. These include:
- Practice Limitations: The Board may restrict you from performing certain functions.
- Probation: The Board may subject you to strict monitoring for a period of time.
- Fines: The Board has the authority to impose fines for regulatory violations.
- Letter of Reprimand: For minor violations, the Board may issue a formal reprimand, which becomes part of your record but does not limit your license.
However, even these lesser penalties can adversely impact your career as they become part of your public record, potentially accessible to prospective patients, employers, healthcare institutions, and licensing boards in other states. In addition to these disciplinary actions being publicly accessible on the DPR website, the Board is also required to report these actions to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), a national repository of pertinent information on healthcare professionals. A negative report in this database can potentially hinder your chances of acquiring licensure in another state or securing employment. 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 Delaware
Despite being the second smallest state in the United States, Delaware, with its population exceeding 1 million, ranks as the sixth most densely populated. Consequently, the healthcare sector thrives here, offering numerous opportunities for dentists to serve the healthcare needs of the local communities. While the Lento Law Firm Team can represent dentists across all Delaware municipalities, many of our clients are naturally based in the state's primary population hubs. These include:
Wilmington, Delaware, is a city rich in history and cultural diversity. As the largest city in the state, Wilmington anchors a large metropolitan area of about 720,000 inhabitants, constituting more than 70 percent of the state population. Wilmington serves as an economic hub, housing several Fortune 500 companies and a thriving financial sector, largely due to its business-friendly laws and policies. Wilmington's vibrant cultural scene includes numerous museums, art galleries, and performance venues such as the Grand Opera House. The city is beautifully situated on the banks of the Christina River, with a scenic riverfront area that boasts a host of restaurants, shops, and parks, offering a blend of leisure and recreational activities for locals and visitors alike.
The state capital of Delaware, Dover is a charming city known for its unique blend of past and present, with historic sites like the Old State House and modern attractions such as Dover International Speedway, a renowned venue for NASCAR races. The city is home to Delaware State University, contributing to an atmosphere of youthful energy and intellectual curiosity. The Dover Air Force Base, one of the area's major employers, is home to the Air Mobility Command's largest airlift wing.
The Disciplinary Process for Dentists in Delaware
The Delaware Division of Professional Regulation (DPR) has instituted a standard process to investigate and penalize misconduct among its licensees across all professions it oversees, including the field of dentistry. Here's a quick overview of the disciplinary process.
Lodging of Complaint
Almost all disciplinary actions against licensed professionals begin with a formal complaint filed with the DPR. This complaint can be lodged by anyone, but in the case of dentists, it's typically filed by patients, their family members, peers, other healthcare professionals, insurance companies, etc.
After the DPR receives the complaint and verifies it falls within its purview, it's forwarded to the Investigative Unit, where an investigator is assigned to gather facts and seek evidence supporting the allegations. This stage could span several months, including steps like interviewing the complainant and potential witnesses, soliciting a written response from you, issuing subpoenas for documents, conducting site inspections, and more. The investigator then presents their findings to the Board. If the investigation doesn't yield sufficient evidence of misconduct, the Board may choose to dismiss the case at this point. (At this stage, the Lento Law Firm Team often successfully negotiates for an early dismissal without further proceedings.)
If the investigation reveals credible evidence of a violation of state rules and standards, the case is then advanced to the Office of the Attorney General for review. If the Attorney General's Office agrees that the evidence justifies further action, they will issue a formal complaint against you pending a hearing.
Prior to the formal hearing, the Board may propose negotiating a consent agreement with you. This agreement is a legally binding contract wherein you concede to the alleged misconduct and voluntarily agree to the Board's suggested disciplinary measures. This approach may not be suitable for everyone, and any penalties may still become a part of your public record--but if the evidence against you is substantial, it allows you and your attorney a chance to negotiate for leniency and a favorable resolution, ideally one that either permits you to retain your practice license or provides a pathway to reinstatement. The Lento Law Firm Team can negotiate for the most advantageous terms of a consent agreement if this is the best course of action for you.
In the absence of a consent agreement, the case advances to a formal hearing before a hearing officer, where both parties present evidence and arguments. It's highly recommended to have legal representation for this hearing. After both sides present their case, the hearing officer submits their findings and recommendations to the Board.
Upon receipt of the recommendations from the hearing officer, the Board makes a final decision regarding disciplinary actions and notifies you about its determinations. These measures can range from a reprimand to license limitations to complete revocation of your practice license.
You reserve the right to appeal any unfavorable Board decision in the Superior Court within your jurisdiction within 30 days of the decision. Generally, the court will uphold an appeal only if it discovers procedural errors or factual inaccuracies that deny you due process. The decision becomes final post-appeal.
Remember that at any time through this process, the Delaware Board of Dentistry and Dental Hygiene has the authority to resolve or dismiss the complaint against you. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can engage in strategic negotiations at multiple points in this process to bring about a fair and swift resolution, often before things ever get to the hearing stage.
The Importance of Legal Representation in Defending Your Dentist's License in Delaware
In license defense scenarios, the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" does not necessarily apply. While you have the prerogative to represent yourself before the Board and/or the DPR, you should remember that the primary objective of the Board is to protect public health and safety, not to give you the benefit of the doubt. They only need to demonstrate your guilt through a preponderance of the evidence to enforce disciplinary action. This places you at a tactical disadvantage from the beginning.
Engaging a skilled license defense attorney early in the process can equalize this imbalance and significantly enhance your probability of retaining your dentistry license. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can provide assistance in the following ways:
- Assess the complaint and supporting evidence against you and devise a strategic defense plan;
- Procure evidence and call witnesses in your defense;
- Counsel you on your available options and the most effective strategy for resolving your case;
- Negotiate with the Board at various stages to seek dismissal of the complaint or negotiate agreeable terms for a consent agreement; and
- Represent and defend you robustly at the formal hearing, if required.
Safeguard Your Dentistry License in Delaware With Assistance From the Lento Law Firm
As a licensed dentist in Delaware, your license is the key to your livelihood. Irrespective of whether the complaint against you stems from a misunderstanding, an error, or a blatantly false allegation, quick action is required to ensure these allegations don't result in permanent damage. By hiring our Professional License Defense Team at the earliest sign of trouble, you considerably increase your chances of negotiating a more favorable outcome, ideally one that allows you to retain your license. The Lento Law Firm Team has extensive nationwide experience in successfully defending dentists and other licensed professionals, even in complicated or challenging circumstances. To discuss your case and explore your options, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us via our online form.