As one of the most populous and highest-earning states in America, Virginia is a place where dentists can thrive — as long as they have a valid state-issued license to practice. This seems obvious, yet many dentists take for granted that a single complaint can put their license in jeopardy. In the blink of an eye, they may find themselves with their back against the wall and in serious need of legal counsel.
While a formal complaint may take a dentist by surprise, the Lento Law Firm is all too familiar with these scenarios. Our nationwide Professional License Defense Team exists to take on these very issues, helping dentists fight disciplinary proceedings and retain their licenses.
Complaints against a dentist are made for a multitude of reasons. Many are not the licensee's fault. Misunderstandings are common in any medical setting. Unintentional mistakes happen frequently. False allegations are becoming more prevalent. It is difficult for dentists to foresee when something they've allegedly said or done might be reported.
If you find yourself in this situation, do not panic. You do not have to go through this process alone. Reach out to the Lento Law Firm by filling out our online form or by calling 888-535-3686 today.
What Authority Does the Virginia Board of Dentistry Have?
The Board of Dentistry is an office within the Virginia Department of Health Professions. They have the power to issue dental licenses and discipline existing license holders. Board members include seven licensed dentists, two dental hygienists, and a public member.
According to the Virginia Board of Dentistry's sanction reference points, board members may sanction those in violation of license standards in the following ways:
- Monetary Penalty. Depending on the severity of the allegation, up to $2000 per infraction. There can also be fines imposed in conjunction with any of the other sanctions.
- Continuing Education (CE). The board can require the licensee to complete training courses or remediation related to the nature of the violation.
- Reprimand. A public sanction can be issued. This will be permanently attached to your license and available to be seen by anyone, including patients.
- Probation. The licensee may be required to stay infraction-free for a certain amount of time or face more sanctions.
- Restrictions. Limits may be placed on the professional actions a dentist is legally able to offer his patients. For example, if the complaint alleged the licensee prescribed too many painkillers, the board may allow the dentist to retain their license but without the ability to prescribe medicine.
- Suspension. The dentist's license may be suspended for a set period of time or until certain requirements are met.
- Revocation. The board may choose to rescind the license of the dentist, who would no longer be able to practice dentistry in Virginia.
None of these sanctions are desirable, but perhaps the biggest hit would be the one to the dentist's reputation. Word of mouth is huge when operating a dental practice, and the fallout from professional sanctions can affect the licensee far beyond the legal repercussions.
- Patients may leave for a dentist with an unblemished record
- Future patients may look elsewhere
- Income may be lost
- You may not be able to obtain a license in a different state
- You may face judgment from peers and coworkers
- Fear of further sanctions may cause stress and anxiety, which can affect job performance
The hard truth about professional sanctions is that there is no way to know how exactly they will affect you until it's too late. This is why you must do the things that are within your control, like retaining an experienced legal team the moment you become aware of a complaint against you. By bringing the Lento Law Firm onto your case as early as possible, you are putting yourself in the best position for a favorable outcome.
What If the Allegations Are False?
The truth will set you free — or will it? In our experience defending dentists and other medical professionals, the validity of the complaint (or lack thereof) does not always correlate to the end result of a disciplinary proceeding.
Licensing boards are made up of your fellow dental professionals, not impartial court justices. They might make mistakes. They may have a conscious or unconscious bias against you. After all, these are people you may have crossed paths with at some point during your career. Similarly, they may show favoritism toward the person who filed the complaint.
Evidence is often hard to find in disciplinary cases. In complaints that allege some kind of workplace harassment or abuse it may even turn into a “he said/she said” situation. While a higher level of corroboration is usually needed in criminal trials, that is not the case in license-related disciplinary proceedings. The board considers whatever evidence they feel is relevant.
Because of this, it is necessary that the evidence is relayed in a way that is as clear as possible and presents the board with an undeniable conclusion. Regardless of whether the accusations against you are true or false, do not assume anything. Contact the Lento Law Firm and let us make your case for you.
Grounds for Sanctions Against Virginia Dentists
Virginia Code 54.1-2706 gives the Board of Dentists authority to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the license holder for any of the following causes:
- Deceit in obtaining the initial license
- Conviction of a felony or any other crime related to the practice of dentistry
- Alcohol or drug use that affects licensee's ability to safely practice dentistry
- False advertising
- Intentional or unintentional conduct that causes or is likely to cause injury to a patient
- Employing unlicensed people to practice dentistry
- Not following dental safety procedures
- Prescription drug misconduct
- Unprofessional behavior
While some of these reasons are straightforward, others (such as “incompetence” and “unprofessional behavior”) are undefined. This gives the board leeway when determining whether a complaint rises to the level of sanctions. An honest mistake could be construed as incompetence.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm will work tirelessly to fight against these types of vague charges.
What Is the Adjudication Process for Dental Licensees In Virginia?
After a formal complaint is filed against a dentist, the Board of Dentistry reviews the contents to determine if it falls within the scope of the board. If it does, the following steps are generally taken.
- Investigation. The board gathers evidence and interviews witnesses to make sure there is a legitimate case to be made against the licensee.
- Informal Conference. The board may offer the licensee (and their attorney) the opportunity to present their case in front of one or more board members and may ask for clarifications on any questions they have.
- Consent Agreement. The board may offer the licensee a deal that allows them to avoid a hearing in exchange for an admission of guilt.
- Formal Hearing. Similar to a courtroom trial. The licensee and their legal team present their case and await a final decision from the board.
If the ruling goes against the licensee, the Lento Law Firm will discuss the possibility of making an appeal.
Do You Really Need An Attorney During the Dental License Disciplinary Process?
The short answer? Yes. The long answer? Dentists spend over a decade in school and training in order to have a noble and stable career. Why would you not do everything in your power to retain the ability to practice dentistry? The potential fallout from professional sanctions can derail your entire life plan. Strong, experienced legal representation will not hurt you and can only stand to protect you from the most disastrous outcomes. Some of the challenges these types of cases pose are:
- Lower standards than criminal trials. The Virginia Board of Dentistry is not beholden to the same burden of proof as in a criminal trial. In other words, you are not guaranteed the presumption of innocence. The Lento Law Firm will provide an active defense that allows us to shape the board's narrative.
- A bevy of state legal resources. The Virginia Board of Dentistry is backed by the state government. You would never think about representing yourself in a criminal trial against state prosecutors, so why make that mistake with your license on the line? The Lento Law Firm is a nationwide firm with the resources to win cases against the state.
- Inexperience with disciplinary cases. Most of the dentists our firm represents have no direct legal experience at all, let alone something with the uniqueness of license defense. We have an entire team that focuses solely on that. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team has been there, done that, and we will use that experience to make your case as smooth as possible.
Perhaps the greatest reason to retain the Lento Law Firm for your disciplinary case is because you have a business to run. Any time spent dealing with the Virginia Board of Dentistry is time spent away from your patients. Let us manage your license defense so that you can focus on your professional responsibilities.
What Can the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm Do For You?
When defending against professional license complaints, our primary objective is to clear the name of the dentist and avoid sanctions of any kind. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to get the case dismissed. If that is the case, our firm will pivot to finding the solution that is least disruptive to the client's reputation and business success.
What do we need to get started? Just the details of the case and any other information the license holder feels may be relevant (prior disciplinary actions, etc.). We will then conduct our own thorough investigation to gather exculpatory evidence as well as witnesses that can corroborate the licensee's version of events.
Using that information, we will communicate with the Virginia Board of Dentistry (and likely their General Counsel) to discuss and negotiate any settlement (or consent order) that may be on the table. Depending on the evidence we have found, we may also be able to push for the board to dismiss the complaint.
If no settlement is offered or if the terms are not beneficial to our client, we will argue on the dentist's behalf in adjudication meetings and at the hearing. Again, we will seek for the charges to be dismissed if at all possible. If not, we will do our part to procure a verdict that allows the license holder to continue practicing dentistry.
Any further options, such as an appeal, will be broached with the licensee when it becomes relevant. Even if the evidence is against us, we will do whatever we can to ensure our client gets a resolution they can live with.
The Lento Law Firm Offers Its Services to Dentists Practicing All Throughout the State of Virginia
Our firm provides legal counsel to dentists from a wide variety of Virginia communities, including the following metropolitan areas:
- Arlington County
- Fairfax/Fairfax County
- Fauquier County
- Frederick County
- Loudoun County
- Newport News
- Prince William County
- Stafford County
- Spotsylvania County
- Virginia Beach
While most of the state's dental practices operate in these regions, dentists practicing in rural areas are just as prone to licensing discipline. Whether or not your area is listed above, the Lento Law Firm is happy to discuss our legal services regarding your case.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm Is Ready to Assist With Your Case
If you are a Virginia dental license holder facing disciplinary proceedings by the Board of Dentistry, you need a legal team who has been there before. The Lento Law Firm will explore every contingency your case has to offer and will fight to keep your license active and blemish-free.