The dental market in West Virginia is not exactly robust. It is estimated that the state averages one general dental practice for every 5,111 residents, a number that is much higher than the national average (3,611 residents per practice). What does that mean? With such a dire need for quality dentistry, West Virginians can not afford to lose any options. It is crucial that any professional accusations made against a dentist are handled swiftly before sanctions threaten their ability to provide care for these vulnerable residents.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm knows how tough it can be to remain unscathed in an era where there seems to be a microscope analyzing every interaction a person has. This can happen to anyone. It is becoming more and more common for seemingly harmless comments or honest mistakes to be misconstrued and twisted into something more sinister.
If you find yourself facing sanctions, our team can help. There are many ways to defend against false accusations, and the Lento Law Firm will parse through every available detail in order to find the best path forward for your case. We are familiar with the regulations in West Virginia and have experience negotiating directly with licensing agencies.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team wants nothing more than to help West Virginia dentists find favorable resolutions for their alleged missteps. Tell us about your case by submitting our online form or by calling us today at 888-535-3686.
West Virginia Board of Dentistry: What Can They Do?
The West Virginia Board of Dentistry is the state agency that licenses and provides oversight of those in the dental profession. The board is made up of eight dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants. One citizen member also sits on the board.
Under West Virginia state code, the board has the the authority to discipline you in the following ways:
- Warning — For very minor offenses, the board may require you to stop the behavior or face further sanctions.
- Public reprimand— A citation may be placed on your public record.
- Probation or restrictions — The board may set forth conditions (such as additional training) that must be accomplished during a period of extra oversight or scheduled check-ins.
- Fines or restitution — Depending on the reason for the initial complaint, a monetary penalty may be required to be paid to the board or to the complainant as restitution.
- License suspension or revocation — If the offense is serious enough, the board may decide to temporarily suspend or permanently revoke your license.
Some of these may not seem too bad, but it's important to consider that sanctions and disciplinary actions can stick with you throughout your career. Most of these outcomes will end on your public record, which can affect your ability to practice dentistry in a number of ways, including:
- Termination from your job and/or ousted from dental practice
- Difficulty retaining and attracting patients
- Challenges in finding other job opportunities or partners
- Inability to become licensed in a state other than West Virginia
- Mental blocks which can cause your job performance to suffer
The bottom line is your reputation is at stake with any sort of disciplinary action. Once these types of accusations are made against you, the only thing you can do is fight back. Regardless of whether the allegations are true or not, the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm will do everything in our power to mitigate the impact to your livelihood.
The Allegations Are False — Does It Matter?
Unfortunately, innocence does not guarantee you will not be disciplined. Many of these cases are of the “he said/she said” variety, and as such, truly exonerating evidence is hard to come by. If false allegations are leveled against you, the worst thing you can do is assume that the truth will absolve you of all consequences. At first glance, it seems like a rational thought process. The inherent problem is that the results of state disciplinary board action are not always rational. Dentistry boards are comprised of humans and are prone to a variety of errors.
- Bias or professional conflict of interest. As the board is made up of other dentists residing in the same state, there are decent odds that board members have crossed paths with the accused and may have their judgment clouded. They also might show favoritism toward the complainant.
- Lack of due diligence. While these cases may not typically deal with large amounts of evidence, there are still certain investigatory steps the board should follow — but these board members are dentists, not professional detectives. It is possible that relevant facts and testimonies remain uncovered and affect the outcome of the case.
- Dismissal of relevant evidence. Even if the board does have all of the facts, that does not mean that they will consider them. The burden of proof is not the same as a criminal trial, and board members can choose to prioritize the evidence they find most pertinent.
- Reaching the wrong conclusion. Regardless of how fair and thorough the board's investigation is, there is always a chance that they simply fail to reach the right (and favorable) conclusion. The board is given quite a bit of latitude and authority to assign the discipline they see fit. They may even believe that the accused made an honest mistake and still issue some kind of public reprimand.
In cases like this, with so much uncertainty, you need to ensure you give yourself the best chance for a positive outcome. A West Virginia dentist getting sanctioned is influenced less by their actual guilt and more by whether or not they have good legal representation. The Lento Law Firm is on your side and will always fight for their clients to achieve the most lenient and least disruptive solution to your case.
Grounds for Sanctions by the West Virginia Board of Dentistry
Under West Virginia Code 30-4-19, the Board of Dentistry is granted the authority to take disciplinary action against license holders for the following reasons:
- Obtaining a dental license by fraudulent means or withholding facts
- Felony crime conviction
- Misdemeanor crime convictions (if they relate to the practice of dentistry)
- Dental malpractice
- Violating a board-issued order or rule
- Licensee has disciplinary action taken against them in another state where they are authorized to practice dentistry
- Supervising or assisting another dentist or dental hygienist who is not licensed by the state of West Virginia
- Engaging in professional conduct that endangers the safety or welfare of the public
- Having an incapacity to reasonably engage in the safe practice of dentistry
- Fraud related to the practice of dentistry
- Neglecting to report a license being suspended or revoked in another jurisdiction
- Failing to report adverse rulings of any malpractice claims
- Unauthorized disclosure of protected patient information
- Obstructing a board investigation
- Not adhering to sterilization and disinfection guidelines
- Sedating patients without proper authorization
- Failure to disclose any DUI or DWI offenses
- Ethical conduct violations as determined by the American Dental Association, including drug and alcohol abuse, harassment or abuse against patients or staff, financial fraud, and false advertising
Practicing dentistry is a minefield of potential rule infractions. You can be an excellent dentist and still find yourself on the wrong side of allegations. If you have been accused of a violation by the West Virginia Board of Dentistry, do not panic. You are not alone in this. Contact the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm by submitting your case online or by calling 888-535-3686 today.
The Disciplinary Process for West Virginia Dentists Facing a Challenge to Their License
Once a complaint has been made against a dentist in West Virginia, the adjudication process is fairly standard. According to the Board of Dentistry's Complaint Procedures:
- Two board members will review the complaint to determine if it falls within the jurisdiction of the board
- If yes, a copy of the complaint and supporting documents are sent to the licensee, who has 30 days to respond
- An investigation will begin to gather evidence, personal testimony, and to ultimately determine the validity of the allegations
- Before a formal hearing, the board may present a “consent order,” in which the dentist admits to wrongdoing and is, in turn, offered a path to license reinstatement (in this case, sanctions will still be placed on your public record)
- If no consent order is agreed upon, the case will move to a formal hearing in front of the board
- When the hearing concludes, the board will announce which disciplinary measures they have chosen to take against the licensee, including permanent revocation of the dental license
- If the board's ruling is undesirable, the licensee can appeal the decision — a last resort that is rarely successful
The disciplinary process can end at any time if the board determines the complaint should be dismissed due to mitigating circumstances or lack of evidence. This is why it's imperative to hire an experienced attorney, like the Lento Law Firm, early on in the process.
How Can the Lento Law Firm Assist You?
When our Professional License Defense Team works on a case, our number one goal is to clear the name of the dentist we represent and avoid any public sanctions. In the few cases where that may not be possible, we will aim to minimize the level of sanctions so that they have the least adverse effect on the dentist's career.
To achieve these goals, we'll need all the details of the case. This starts with the situation surrounding the initial complaint and any actions taken before contacting us. A frank and honest conversation will help us ensure that we choose the strategy that has the best chance at a successful outcome.
Once we know the facts as the licensee sees them, we will investigate further. This may include speaking to witnesses and gathering testimony, researching any prior complaints made by the complainant, or finding any other evidence that may be used to dismiss or lessen the sanctions.
The Lento Law Firm has a great deal of experience negotiating settlements, and we will be sure to exhaust any options we can to settle your case before the hearing. Often times the board will give their General Counsel the authority to negotiate on their behalf. We are very comfortable dealing with General Counsel and will explore any opportunities to reach a suitable outcome.
If the best resolution for the case can only be reached through traditional disciplinary proceedings, we will be there with you every step of the way. In the event that a ruling goes against you, we will not give up. Our team will file your appeal or can even help you take legal action if the situation allows.
Your license doesn't just allow you to practice dentistry, it gives meaning to all the work and sleepless nights you endured to get to where you are. Do not risk losing that by waiting to hire quality representation.
The Lento Law Firm Provides Representation to Dentists Throughout West Virginia
The Lento Law Firm understands that dental practices treat patients from all kinds of communities. Our Professional License Defense Team provides our services to West Virginian dentists in metropolitan centers such as:
- Jefferson County
- Point Pleasant
While these areas have higher concentrations of dental practices, we are also happy to assist dentists who serve West Virginia's rural residents.
Do Not Hesitate to Contact the Lento Law Firm to Defend Your Dental License
Qualifying for a dental license is a huge accomplishment, the prize at the end of a decade of hard work and schooling. If you are a dentist facing disciplinary actions that put your license in jeopardy, contact the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm as soon as possible. We will review your case and do everything in our power to get you a positive outcome.