In California, filed complaints against dentists undergo an extensive review process through the Dental Board of California (DBC), and, if during the complaint analysis the DBC's Enforcement Program determines that further inspection or investigation is necessary, the possibility of your license, livelihood, and reputation being marred dramatically increases.
Therefore, having an experienced lawyer who is well-versed in the various aspects of the DBC proceedings there to assist you through the process is imperative. Filed complaints and cases usually revolve around alcohol, drug, or controlled substance usage, ineptitude in carrying out the duties, repeated and/or gross negligence, or criminal activity. Such complaints can be filed by patients, workers, law enforcement, healthcare providers, and others who deem such complaints as necessary.
When a complaint is filed with the DBC, a trained professional evaluate the complaint against the dental professional(s) to evaluate whether it is warranted. Depending on the nature of the complaint, it may be forwarded to Complaint Analysis, Inspection, Investigation, or other investigative agency.
If a complaint is forwarded to the Complaint Analysis section, analysts collect patient records from the complainant, and from any dental professional who is related to the complaint. From there, the complaint and relevant records are reviewed by the DBC's dental consultants. If the complaint is determined to be unjustified, then the complaint is closed. If the complaint is deemed warranted, the next phase for the filed complaint is inspection or investigation.
In the Inspection Section and Investigation Section, professionals from the DBC look into the complaint in more detail. During this stage of the complaint process, if the complaint is deemed unfounded after further inspection or investigation, then the complaint is dismissed.
Based on the degree of the violation, the dentist may face a misdemeanor and a small fine, or, in more serious criminal offenses, there may be formal charges brought to the dentist.
Inspection Section: For inspection cases, inspectors thoroughly examine, analyze, and evaluate the dental practice to report any unsafe or unhygienic conditions. Based on their findings and the degree of the hazardous conditions, they may issue an administrative warning or citation.
If cited, the dentist will then have to pay any applicable fines and verify the hazard has been rectified.
Investigation Section: For investigation cases, peace officers examine, analyze, and evaluate reports, interviews, and other necessary evidence to investigate if the dental professionals are committing criminal activity such as unlawful treatment towards the patient (i.e., battery or sexual misconduct); alcohol, drug, or controlled substance use and/or violations; fraudulent billing or insurance claims; and unlicensed dental practices.
If the DBC finds any of the above conduct, the investigative file may be forwarded to the local District Attorney's Offices for the filing of formal criminal charges, or to the Attorney General of California who will initiate administrative disciplinary proceedings against the dentist's license.
If the complaint is deemed substantive in the Inspection Section or Investigation Section, the dental professional(s) involved may be put on probation. During this probationary period, the DBC monitors dental professionals by requiring their compliance with certain terms and conditions. Failure to comply with probation may result in the revocation of their dental license.
Even if the complaint is in the beginning stages of review, you should contact an experienced healthcare attorney immediately so that you have proper representation throughout the process.