If you are a licensed dentist working in South Dakota, you know first-hand how much time, effort, and, of course, money it has taken to get you to where you are now. The South Dakota State Board of Dentistry has an extensive list of qualifications and requirements for those seeking a license to practice dentistry in that state. Years of education in college and dental school, thousands of hours of on-the-job training and learning, time spent studying for, taking, and passing your National Board Dental Examination, learning CPR, passing a South Dakota Jurisprudence exam, and submitting a criminal background check complete with fingerprints – all of this just to get to the point where you can apply for your dental license and start your practice in South Dakota.
This is why if you're notified that a misconduct claim has been filed against you, you need to take it seriously immediately. The sooner you retain a skilled Professional License Defense attorney, the better off you'll be. It's like you probably tell your patients when it comes to treating cavities – the quicker you address the problem, the better the results will be.
An experienced license defense attorney from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can help you from day one. Preparing for the investigator's interview, gathering information to help you defend yourself against the allegations, negotiating with the South Dakota State Board of Dentistry, and, where necessary, defending you in a formal hearing are all things our attorneys are able to help you with. You'll be far better off if you are working with one of our professional license defense attorneys from day one than if you wait to contact us until after formal charges are filed against you.
Ways the State of South Dakota Board of Dentistry Can Discipline Dentists
When the South Dakota State Board of Dentistry investigates a dentist accused of misconduct, it has a number of disciplinary options it can choose after investigating the complaint. Depending on the facts of your situation, the board can do any of the following:
- Elect not to move forward. Where an investigation fails to find facts to support a complaint, the board can simply drop the matter.
- Letter of reprimand. In less serious cases of misconduct, the board may reprimand the dentist for the substantiated misconduct but may take no other action.
- Issue a Cease and Desist notice. This is often done in situations where the dentist is found to be engaging in unauthorized dental practices beyond the scope of their license.
- Evaluation and remediation. Where a dentist is found to have failed to provide the appropriate level of care to a patient, the board may require the dentist to undergo additional training that focuses on the areas where skills are found to be lacking.
- Probation. A period of supervision may apply where a dentist has provided unacceptable patient care.
- License suspension. This is typically a temporary remedy and is often coupled with a requirement that the dentist complete certain continuing education courses before the license will be reinstated.
- License revocation. The most serious penalty applied in the most serious of misconduct cases.
- Mandated substance abuse therapy. Where a dentist is found to have an alcohol or other substance abuse condition, the dentist may be required to enroll in substance abuse therapy. Their license may be suspended until there is agreement that the dentist's condition is being managed.
What Standards Does South Dakota Expect Dentists to Uphold?
South Dakota relies on dentists as professionals to provide the appropriate degree of care to their patients. Dentists have a lot of discretion when it comes to treating their patients, and South Dakota law gives them the “exclusive responsibility” for performing a wide range of procedures when treating patients.
Generally speaking, dentists are expected to uphold the standards of their profession, to treat patients using generally accepted treatment methods for the particular conditions that the patients have, to keep accurate records of the work performed on patients, and to meet the board's requirements for continuing education (100 hours of approved continuing education in every 5-year license cycle).
Grounds for Dentist Discipline in South Dakota
There are many reasons you may be disciplined as a dentist in South Dakota. Any violation of the laws or administrative rules relating to the practice of dentistry may be the subject of a misconduct complaint. Complaints can relate to:
- Poor quality of patient care or the lack of competence of the dentist
- Fee disputes, including claims of overbilling and fraudulent billing
- Poor communication between the dentist and the patient, including a poor “chair side manner;” this can also include verbal abuse of the patient
- Suspected insurance fraud, in particular, where the dentist misstates or exaggerates the procedures performed on the patient in a way so that the insurance company is paying for services not performed
- Abandonment of the patient, where the dentist does not respond to patient treatment requests, fails to help the patient find another dentist and doesn't forward records to the new provider
- Substance abuse, particularly where the dentist is suspected of working while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or prescription or non-prescription drugs
- Inappropriate physical contact with the patient, including sexual abuse
- Failing to properly prescribe medications or mishandling of prescription drugs
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team is experienced in helping dentists defend themselves against all types of misconduct complaints. Our attorneys understand that there are two sides to every story, and we can help you uncover the evidence that supports yours and present it in a compelling and convincing way.
Don't Assume the Truth Will Protect You From Dental License Sanctions in South Dakota
One very natural reaction that you may have to a misconduct complaint is to assume that it's all a misunderstanding that will quickly be resolved once you have an opportunity to explain it to the South Dakota State Board of Dentistry. Unfortunately, our experience is that it's not always that easy.
For one, there is a process that the board uses to investigate complaints, and while your response to the complaint is part of that process, the investigator will typically look further in order to be able to show that the complaint was taken seriously by the board. In addition to your interview, the investigation process might include interviews with the person who filed the complaint, your co-workers, supervisors, and others who might have some information about the incident. The investigator may seek records from your practice that relate to the alleged misconduct.
There are two ways that your interest in “setting the record straight” may backfire on you. If you try to do this when the investigator interviews you, it's possible that you won't get your message across as clearly as you'd like. License misconduct investigations are stressful times, and being interviewed by an investigator is not something that happens every day. Trying to deal with this kind of stressful situation by yourself can result in you inadvertently saying things you didn't intend to or failing to provide information that you later realize you should have disclosed. In addition, investigators don't always ask clear questions, so it's important to make sure you understand what you're being asked before you respond and that your response addresses the question that was asked.
Our experienced professional license defense attorneys can help make sure the interview process is fair to you. They have years of experience with intense question-and-answer sessions and know how to critically listen to questions to make sure they are clear and fair and to work with the investigator so that you only answer unambiguous questions that you understand. Similarly, if your answer isn't entirely clear or strays from the subject of the question, our attorneys will help you make sure that you correct that. This reduces the chance that an unclear question or an incomplete answer will end up being used against you later on.
The Adjudication Process for Dentist Licensing Issues in South Dakota
Assuming that a complaint covers the kind of disciplinary matters that the South Dakota State Board of Dentistry regulates, the investigatory and adjudication process will operate along the following lines:
- Investigation of the complaint. The complaint will be assigned to an investigator, who will look into the allegations in detail. You, your co-workers and supervisors, the complainant, and other witnesses may be interviewed. Documents may be subpoenaed and reviewed as well, all to determine whether there are facts that support the complaint.
- If the facts uncovered by the investigator don't support any further action against you, the matter will be closed. If they do, then you will be notified of the charges being brought against you and the facts that support those charges.
- You will likely have the opportunity to resolve the matter through an “agreed disposition.” This is a situation where you will be presented with a statement of facts that you are to agree to and a proposed disciplinary action from the board, which you'll also be asked to agree to. The attorney general assigned to your case will present the proposed agreed disposition, and if you agree to it, the board will review it and decide whether to approve it or reject it. Practically speaking, most agreed disposition cases are approved by the board, but until the board does so, the matter won't be resolved.
An agreed disposition may seem to be an easy and speedy way to resolve a disciplinary matter, but it's important to review it with your attorney so that you can understand the potential ramifications of the agreement. If you have a very strong case in your favor, it could make more sense to decline the agreed disposition and proceed to a hearing.
- If the disciplinary proceeding doesn't end with an agreed disposition, it will proceed to a hearing. This will follow procedures outlined in South Dakota state law and will seem very much like a court hearing that you may be used to seeing on TV. Each side will be able to present witnesses and evidence, cross-examine the other side's witnesses, question their evidence, and make arguments on behalf of their sides of the case. In South Dakota, the evidence at dental disciplinary proceedings becomes part of the public record, except to the extent that portions of it may need to be withheld or obscured for patient privacy concerns.
- The hearing will end with a decision by the hearing examiner. The board will consider this decision and may dismiss the complaint, or if it does not, accept the decision and impose a sanction against you.
- If the complaint is dismissed, the person who filed the complaint may appeal to the board, or if the decision is against you, you may appeal to the South Dakota Circuit Court.
These procedures are complicated and typically involve a number of deadlines that need to be met. By working with an experienced professional license defense attorney from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team, you will be relieved of much of the burden of having to defend yourself while at the same time maintaining your dental practice and enjoying your life outside of work. Our attorneys understand the rules, procedures, and policies that apply in dental disciplinary hearings in South Dakota, and they will do everything they can to make sure your rights are respected and that you have the strongest defense possible.
What Happens if You Are Disciplined by the South Dakota Board of Dentistry?
Disciplinary actions of the South Dakota State Board of Dentistry are public. Your patients and potential patients will be able to look you up online and see that the board has disciplined you. They will also be able to receive a detailed summary of the complaints filed against you, the allegations that you agree to (or that are substantiated by the hearing) and those that you disagree with (or that are not established), and the discipline imposed against you by the board.
How the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team Can Help
If you are notified that a misconduct complaint has been filed against you, our experienced professional license defense attorneys can help you in a wide variety of ways. These include helping you understand the allegations in the complaint; conducting an investigation on your behalf into the facts behind the allegations; preparing and representing you in interviews with investigators; negotiating on your behalf with the investigators or attorney general assigned to the misconduct case; advising you in the event you receive an informal consent proposal; and representing you in any hearing or appeal relating to the misconduct claim. Whether you're in the Sioux Falls area or live in Rapid City, Aberdeen, Yankton, or another part of the state, our experienced professional license defense attorneys are available to help you.
It's not easy to deal with a misconduct complaint while trying to maintain your busy dental practice. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can take much of the burden off of your shoulders while making sure that you receive the best defense possible to the claims made against you. Call the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team today at 888.535.3686 or set up a confidential consultation using our online contact form. Your professional license is the key to your career; let us help you make sure you take care of it if it's threatened by a misconduct complaint.