Texas Board of Dental Examiners
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What to expect should a complaint be filed against you
The Texas Board of Dental Examiners goal is to safeguard the dental health of Texas to ensure that only qualified persons are licensed to provide dental care; and to also ensure that violators of laws and rules regulating dentistry are sanctioned appropriately.
The Enforcement Division is responsible for the preliminary investigation of complaints. The Division investigates complaints against dentists, dental hygienists, and dental laboratories.
Complaint Intake and Assessment
All complaints are filed and acknowledged within 30 days. Every complaint is assigned a priority classification:
- Priority One represents more serious allegations of violations, including patient death, patient injury, practicing without a license, and unsanitary conditions.
- Priority Two represents less serious threats to the public welfare, including records-keeping and advertising violations.
If the allegations raise an issue addressed by the Dental Practice Act and/or the Board's Rules, then the Board has jurisdiction and an investigation must be initiated.
There are six categories of complaints, defined as:
- Quality of Care: failure to treat a patient according to the standard of care in the practice of dentistry or dental hygiene.
- Sanitation: failure to maintain the dental office or dental laboratory in a sanitary condition.
- Professional Conduct: violations arising out of the day-to-day practice of dentistry, not including purely administrative requirements.
- Administration: failure to follow the administrative requirements of the Dental Practice Act and the Board's Rules.
- Dental Laboratories: violations of the Dental Practice Act and/or the Board's Rules pertaining to the operations of dental laboratories.
- Business promotion: violations arising out of efforts to obtain business, such as advertising and referral schemes.
When an investigation is opened, an investigator is assigned to determine the circumstances of the incident. The Complainant will be contacted for further explanation and clarification of the complaint. The dentist against whom a complaint is brought, "Respondent," is forwarded a copy of the complaint and is asked to send a complete copy of the patient's records to the Board. The Respondent may provide an explanation of the circumstances, if desired. Compliance with the request for records is mandatory, under Rule 108.8. If the complaint involves quality of care issues, second opinions will be obtained when available. When all the documentation is gathered the investigator prepares a summary report, which is forwarded to the Board Secretary for review. It is important to have legal representation at this early stage to properly respond to any requests for information and documents and to begin a pro-active approach to the allegations.
Review - Upon completion of the investigation, the Secretary may: return the case for further investigation; refer the case to an informal settlement conference; refer the case directly to the State Office of Administrative Hearings; close the case.
If, in the Secretary's opinion, the complaint presents a possible violation of the Dental Practice Act or Board Rules, the case will be referred to an "Informal Conference" or to a "Formal Hearing".
The Informal Conference provides an opportunity for the Complainant and Respondent to explain their positions to a three-member panel, comprised of Board members. If the panel thinks that the facts constitute a violation, then a Board Order will be proposed. The Respondent has 30 days after receipt to accept or reject the proposed order. Having an attorney with Board experience and knowing what is likely to be asked is critical in preparing you for this conference.
If the proposed order is not accepted, the matter will be set for formal hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings. A Notice of Hearing will be provided and an Administrative Law Judge will conduct a hearing and issue a "Proposal for Decision", which includes findings of fact. Clearly, experienced counsel is essential in this courtroom setting no less than a surgeon in the operating room.
If the Administrative Law Judge finds that a violation has occurred, the Board will issue an order imposing an appropriate punishment by the following processes:
- Final Orders - Final decisions, whether they resulted from informal conference or formal hearing, are voted upon by the Board and formalized by a Board Order.
- Compliance - All final orders are monitored to ensure compliance, including completion of additional continuing education and payment of fines.
The processing of complaints filed with the State Board of Dental Examiners (Board) is governed by Chapter 255, Title 3, Occupations Code, effective September 1, 2003, and Rules 107.00 through 107.103 of the Board's Rules.