For Washington-based dentists, your license is more than just a document. It is your ticket to a lucrative, well-respected career. Your license is a reminder of all the hard work, late nights, and financial investment you made to get to where you are today.
So what if that license becomes threatened? It may seem far-fetched, but every dentist is one formal complaint away from sanctions that could derail your entire livelihood. Even if you retain your license, the disciplinary process could be time-consuming and result in infractions that are both public and permanent.
When it comes to dental practices, the state of Washington is one of the most highly saturated in the United States. In such a competitive landscape, any disruption to your business is, at best, a financial burden. At worst, it's the end of your practice.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm handles a number of cases like these nationwide. We are familiar with the professional regulations in Washington and understand what needs to be done to combat allegations like these.
If a complaint has been filed against you and you are wondering how to proceed, the most important thing you can do is to contact an experienced legal team. Not all cases are the same. The specific details surrounding your case are necessary to building the right defense. Do not wait to act. Give your license the defense it needs by telling the Lento Law Firm about your case today. Reach us at 888-535-3686 or online via our contact form.
Can a Dentist Represent Themself?
In professional misconduct cases based on “he said/she said” type events, the accused often feels like lawyers are unnecessary. If they did nothing wrong, the board will see that, and the whole misunderstanding will get cleared up right away. Using a lawyer will only make them “seem guilty.” Unfortunately, that is generally not the case.
False allegations happen, and they seem to be more common than ever. They are not usually malicious; rather, the complainant has misinterpreted or overreacted to a comment or action that was not intended to harm. Everybody knows this is within the realm of possibilities, yet nobody thinks it can happen to them.
The fact is, there is no way to prevent false claims from being made against you. The only move you can make is to act swiftly if they do. Contacting a respected license defense attorney is an excellent first step. Regardless of whether the allegations are true, you must treat the situation with the seriousness it deserves. Sanctions have the power to seriously affect your life. Don't leave it up to chance. Contact the Lento Law Firm and give yourself the best shot at a painless resolution.
Who Disciplines Dental License Holders in Washington?
The disciplinary process in Washington is conducted by the state's Dental Quality Assurance Commission (frequently referred to as the Dental Commission).
The board consists of nine dentists, one dental assistant, and three public members, all of whom also live and work in the state. While this may be better than oversight by corrupt career politicians, being judged by your peers and competitors comes with its own set of problems. These are people you have possibly met or brushed shoulders with at one time or another. One of the board members may be biased against you for whatever reason, or show favoritism toward the complainant.
In addition, these board members are dentists, not detectives or court justices. Making conclusions based on limited evidence is not something they went to school for. As such, they may be prone to error. With so much uncertainty, good legal representation is critical to safeguard against any conflicts that may arise during the proceedings. The Lento Law Firm has seen many of these cases and is well-versed in their potential pitfalls.
Under the Washington Administrative Code (246-817), the Dental Commission is given the power to discipline dental license holders with varying levels of severity. These include:
- Censure or reprimand. A public sanction that remains attached to your license permanently.
- Requiring completion of remedial program or treatment. This form of discipline could be relevant if the alleged violation involved a licensee showing incompetence or becoming incapacitated.
- Probation. A licensee may be assigned a supervisor to monitor their practice and ensure compliance with the conditions of probation.
- Fines. Up to $ 5,000 per violation, payable to the Dental Commission. If financial infractions or malpractice were committed, the licensee may be required to refund or pay restitution to the complainant.
- License suspension. Inability to practice dentistry for a fixed or indefinite amount of time (usually until certain conditions are met).
- License revocation. Licensee can no longer practice dentistry in the state of Washington.
While some of these sanctions are clearly worse than others, all of them can have a negative impact on your profession. Any adverse
judgment from the Dental Commission will leave a mark on your public record. You may retain your ability to hold a valid license yet still face a number of other issues, such as:
- Losing trust of longtime patients
- Losing money
- Losing position with practice
- Struggling to attract new patients
- A hostile workplace (if infractions involved coworkers)
- Inability to practice dentistry elsewhere
- Unnecessary stress and worry
No matter how serious the allegations are, if the Washington Dental Commission has you in its sights, your career as you know it is in jeopardy.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team will do everything in our power to fight the allegations against you and mitigate the disruption to your practice.
What Type of Actions Merit An Investigation by the Dental Commission?
Washington Revised Code 18.130.180 puts forth the many reasons that the state's Dental Commission can investigate and ultimately discipline a license holder.
- Dishonesty or corruption relating to the practice of dentistry
- Misrepresenting or withholding information when seeking license
- False advertising
- Negligence, incompetence, or malpractice that risks a patient's safety
- Suspension or revocation of license in another state
- Controlled substance crimes (such as using prescriptions oneself or prescribing to family members)
- Ignoring patient care standards
- Failure to cooperate with Dental Commission
- Aiding an unlicensed person with performing duties that require license
- Conviction of felony or misdemeanor related to practicing dentistry
- Disclosing patient information
- Misuse of drugs or alcohol
- Abuse or sexual abuse of a patient or employee
If a complaint has been filed with the Dental Commission alleging that you have committed one or more of the aforementioned violations, act quickly by calling the Lento Law Firm. The longer the Dental Commission has to investigate without the presence of your attorneys, the more opportunity there will be for them to gather (and possibly misconstrue) evidence against you. Get ahead of these accusations, not behind. For a consultation, reach out online or by calling us at 888-535-3686.
The Disciplinary Process for Dental License Holders In Washington
When the Dental Commission receives a complaint, board members review it to determine if it falls under the scope of their office. If they find that the complaint meets that criteria, they will initiate disciplinary proceedings.
- Investigation. The board (usually through proxies like professional investigators, in-house attorneys, or the Attorney General's office) will gather and evaluate any evidence that might support or invalidate the complaint. If the evidence at hand does not point to a violation, the complaint is usually closed. If evidence of misconduct is found, the Dental Commission presents its case.
- Consent Order. In the event there is a decent amount of evidence of wrongdoing, the Dental Commission may offer a settlement (also called a consent order) to the licensee. This allows the disciplinary process to conclude without the need for a hearing. However, acceptance of the consent order is an admittance of guilt. Agreeing to this shows the board that the licensee is apologetic and willing to defer to the board. A capable attorney may be able to negotiate terms of consent order to minimize damage.
- Formal Hearing. If no consent order is offered or signed, the next step is a formal hearing where both sides will present evidence. Witnesses may be asked to give testimony. The licensee is permitted to have legal counsel argue on their behalf. At the end of the hearing, the Dental Commission will inform the licensee of their judgment and clarify any disciplinary action will be taken against them.
- Appeal. In accordance with the law, the losing party has the right to file an appeal if they feel the judgment was incorrect or if key exculpatory evidence was ignored. (It should be noted that appeals are not often successful in disciplinary licensing cases).
The benefit of having an experienced legal team on your side is that they will be communicating with the Dental Commission every step of the way. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm knows how to deal with licensing boards and their General Counsel. It is not always possible to get the allegations dismissed during the investigatory stage, but our lawyers will certainly try.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm: How Can We Help?
The Lento Law Firm is a respected nationwide firm with detailed knowledge of Washington's disciplinary procedures regarding dental licensees. It is crucial for the success of your case that we get involved early on in the process. The ideal outcome for any case is to completely clear the licensee of all misconduct allegations and avoid sanctions.
This is not always possible. In those cases, we aim to cast enough doubt on the accusations to seriously diminish the severity of sanctions the dentist is facing. Our goal is to find a path forward that allows the licensee to continue operating their business without much, if any, disruption.
First, we need to get familiar with the case. It's important for the licensee to communicate these details as thoroughly and honestly as they can. In order to plan the best defense possible, we'll need to know the situation surrounding the complaint and any actions that the client took before contacting us.
As the board conducts its investigation into the complaint, our team will gather our own evidence. Anything we can find that may be exculpatory (including documents, video of the incident, and witness testimonies) will be used to negotiate with the board for a dismissal. The Lento Law Firm is experienced in negotiating with licensing boards and their General Counsel. During this stage, we will explore all options to keep your case from moving to a hearing. If arguing at the hearing is what the licensee's case requires, however, we are very comfortable taking that route.
The bottom line? Our Professional License Defense Team will be on your side through every contingency. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or by submitting our online form. We assure you that you will be in caring and capable hands.
Professional Defense Attorneys Serving Washington Dentists
The state of Washington is home to a diverse array of communities. The Lento Law Firm serves dentists from all over, including large metropolitan centers like:
- Kitsap County
- Moses Lake-Othello
- Oak Harbor
- Port Angeles
- Skagit County
- Walla Walla
While most of Washington's dental practices are concentrated in these areas, our Professional License Defense Team remains willing to assist dentists in the state's more rural areas.
Retain the Lento Law Firm to Defend Your Washington Dental License
As a dentist, having your dental license formally challenged can be devastating. You have spent countless hours and money to get yourself to a point of stability, only to have that hard work jeopardized by a complaint that may not even be true.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm wants to help you get your career back on track. We have an excellent record when dealing with licensing agencies, and will do our best to make this stressful process as easy as possible. For a consultation, call us at 888-535-3686 or fill out our online form.