Dentistry is a highly competitive field in Utah. This should come as no surprise as one of the most prolific and well-regarded dental schools in the country is at the University of Utah. In such a cutthroat industry, dentists must retain every advantage that they can in order to have and maintain success. The last thing you need on your plate is a professional sanction that could drive patients away or potentially cause you to lose your license altogether.
In this day and age, it's more difficult than ever to avoid complaints of impropriety. Social media documents every aspect of our lives for anyone to scrutinize, and one slip-up in a message or conversation can be enough to leave lasting damage on your career. No one is immune to making mistakes or being on the wrong end of false allegations. If you find yourself facing accusations of improper behavior that may affect your standing as a licensed dentist, do not panic.
The Lento Law Firm assists in these kinds of cases in Utah and nationwide. We are familiar with Utah state regulations and procedures and understand how to approach negotiations with licensing agencies like Utah's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.
Need help? The group of attorneys that make up our Professional License Defense Team will examine every detail of your case to help you receive the outcome that is least disruptive to your business. Our teams know that becoming a dentist takes years of training and significant financial investment, and we want to do our part to ensure that your hard work continues to pay dividends for years to come.
Who Has Authority to Discipline Dentists In Utah?
The state agency responsible for licensing, monitoring, and disciplining dentists in Utah is called the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (“DOPL”). The board that oversees dentistry currently consists of five dentists, two dental hygienists, and one impartial citizen member.
Under the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Practice Act of the Utah Code, the DOPL is given the authority to discipline violators of license standards. After a comprehensive adjudication process, discipline could come in the form of:
- A Public Reprimand. This typically comes in the form of a citation attached to your license. Unless otherwise stated, these are public and permanent (pending an appeal).
- Fines and/or Restitution. The DOPL board may choose to impose monetary penalties. Depending on the offense committed, fines payable to the DOPL itself or restitution paid to the complainant are both on the table.
- Probation. You may be allowed to retain your dentistry license as long as certain conditions are met. This can include the completion of training courses or restrictions placed on the care you are authorized to provide patients. Probation will almost always require check-ins with the board for progress updates.
- Suspended License. If the complaint filed against a dentist suggests any activity that could put the health and safety of patients at risk, the DOPL may suspend your license pending the adjudication process. In these cases, you will not be able to practice in Utah until the process has reached a conclusion.
- Revoked License. The most extreme punishment short of criminal charges. If the violations are severe and enough evidence is presented, the board could choose to revoke your license permanently.
Despite the varied severity of these forms of discipline, they all have one thing in common: they are a hit to your reputation. Sanctions of this kind remain on your public record indefinitely. You may still legally be able to practice dentistry, but it can affect your success in other ways, such as:
- Issues with attracting new patients
- Losing existing patients
- Workplace hostility (especially if the infraction involved coworkers)
- Removal from dental practice
- Limited job opportunities
- Judgement from your peers
- Challenges becoming licensed outside of Utah
- Performance issues from mental stress
We understand the incredibly high stakes that come with a case involving the defense of a professional license. In an ideal world, you would avoid the allegations altogether. Sadly, that isn't always possible. If a complaint has been made against you, you must act immediately by calling an experienced legal team like the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm.
True or False — Does It Make a Difference?
While legitimate misconduct does happen, the truth of the matter is that false allegations are more prevalent than ever. People tend to overanalyze and overreact to actions and comments that would have been hardly a blip on the radar in the past. To put it simply, obediently adhering to the rules and ethics presented in the Utah code does not automatically mean you will avoid any professional scandal.
Regardless of whether you have done what the complaint alleges or you were just a victim of miscommunication and special circumstances, the first step should be the same: contact an experienced license defense lawyer, like our team at the Lento Law Firm. Based on the details of your case, we can move forward with a plan that represents your best interests. It doesn't matter if you have actually committed the alleged violation. Either way, we will do everything in our power to see that you retain your license.
If you feel like you have done nothing wrong, you may be tempted to represent yourself. The truth always wins out in the end, right? Well, not exactly. While it sounds good in theory, the reality is not nearly that clear-cut.
There are two problems with this way of thinking. The first is that these are often “he said/she said” cases, which means there is not always a significant amount of evidence. In a criminal court, this could work in favor of the accused; the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That is tough to do based on the testimony of one person. However, defending a professional license is not criminal court. The board of dentistry at the Utah DOPL is not beholden to the same standards of guilt. Meaning it may be your word against the complainant — and that could go either way.
The second issue is that dentistry boards are made up of people like you. There is not always an impartial judge involved in these proceedings. As such, mistakes are sometimes made. Decisions are not always rational and may be affected by a number of human errors, including:
- Professional or Personal Bias. Again, the Utah DOPL dentistry board is made up of people who work or have worked in your same field. Ultimately, they are competitors in an oversaturated Utah market. Odds are strong that you have crossed paths with at least one of them over the course of your career. Can you trust that you've always made a good impression? Do any of them know the person who filed the complaint? Even if there isn't bias toward you, they could still lean in favor of the complainant.
- Lack of Due Diligence. Part of the disciplinary process is a thorough investigation into the claims asserted in the complaint. There is always a chance that board members fail to interview a relevant witness or examine every pertinent piece of evidence. This could easily affect the outcome of the case.
- Making the Wrong Judgement. Even if everything goes perfectly during the investigatory stage, there is still a chance that the board simply gets it wrong. With the broad authority given to the board in these matters, they may decide to discipline you even if there isn't conclusive proof that you did what the complaint alleges.
The solution to all these concerns is to call the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm as soon as you know that a complaint has been filed. We have experience dealing with licensing boards and will do what it takes to make a case that is undeniable.
What Actions Can Result in Sanctions From the Utah Dentistry Board?
The dentistry arm of Utah's Department of Professional Licensing is empowered to take various levels of disciplinary action against licensed Utah dentists who are determined guilty of the following:
- Felony crime conviction (or misdemeanor convictions if it implicates dental practice)
- Lying to the DOPL on license application
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Receiving discipline from another state where the dentist is licensed
- Aiding or assisting dental activities performed by a dentist or dental hygienist who is not licensed in Utah
- Practicing forms of dentistry or medicine that are beyond the scope of the dentist's license
- Verbal, mental, physical, or sexual abuse connected with the licensee's workplace
- Incompetence or negligence
- Monetary fraud (in patient billing or otherwise)
- Drug or alcohol abuse (including narcotics) that could reasonably impair the licensee's ability to practice dentistry in a safe manner
- False advertising
In addition, one of the most common reasons that disciplinary proceedings are initiated by the Utah DOPL is for prescription drug crimes. While there is no official limit of painkillers a dentist is allowed to prescribe to patients deemed eligible, some dentists may appear to prescribe them too often or to the wrong people (such as non-patients, friends, or family members). There can also be investigations opened if any controlled substances go missing under a dentist's watch.
The actions listed above vary in their severity. Some may not even seem so bad. It is worth keeping in mind that any violation could become a permanent blemish on your license. Even if you leave the state, these can follow you around, affect public opinion, and complicate your career. It is something that you should always take seriously.
If someone has filed a complaint alleging you committed one or more of these actions, it is in your best interest to contact the Lento Law Firm today. We are invested in helping you find resolutions to every allegation. Call us at 888-535-3686 or submit online for a consultation.
The Disciplinary Process for Dental License Defenses In Utah
After a formal complaint is filed with Utah's DOPL and determined to be under the board's scope, the disciplinary process is pretty straightforward.
- Investigation. Board members will gather evidence and decide whether the complaint has enough merit to move forward.
- Consent Order. The board may choose to offer a “consent order,” which would allow the accused dentist to avoid a hearing. However, this would require the licensee to admit guilt.
- Hearing. The licensee (and their attorneys) will attend a formal hearing where evidence is presented and lawyers argue on behalf of the accused.
- Appeals. If the judgment of the board is felt to be unacceptable, the licensee and legal team can appeal the decision.
Throughout the process, your legal representation will be in contact with the board. At any step in the process, they may be able to convince the board that your case should be dismissed.
What Areas In Utah Does the Lento Law Firm Provide Services?
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team assists dentists all over the state of Utah, including:
- Alpine-Highland-American Fork
- Cedar City
- Davis County
- Lehi-Saratoga Springs
- Park City
- Salt Lake City
- Sandy-South Jordan-Murray
- St. George
We are also able to assist dental practices in more rural areas of Utah.
Reach Out to the Lento Law Firm Today
Dentists know better than anybody the amount of time and hard work that goes into a license to practice dentistry. Disciplinary issues have the potential to derail everything you have worked for. Without exaggeration, your entire career is in the hands of Utah's dentistry board. Do not leave the outcome to chance.
Give yourself the best odds of a painless adjudication process by contacting the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm as soon as you hear about a potential complaint against you. We are determined to get you a suitable resolution. For a consultation, provide us with the details of your case by submitting our online form or by calling 888-535-3686.