Texas State Board of Dental Examiners
The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (Texas Dental Board) is charged by the Texas Legislature through the Dental Practice Act (Texas Occupations Code Chapter 251), with safeguarding the dental health of Texas by ensuring that only qualified individuals practice dentistry, and by disciplining dentists for violations of laws and rules regulating the practice of dentistry. The Texas Dental Board thereby has the authority to issue dental licenses, and also to discipline them.
Many practitioners may gloss over the board’s mission statement, and form the misguided belief that the Board is their advocate, and stands to protect them. This is not the case. The Texas Dental Board’s loyalty is to the citizens of Texas first, and therefore, any serious communication between the board and a licensee should be done through an experienced Texas administrate attorney, well-versed in the operations of the Texas Dental Board.
The majority of the practice of the Leichter Law Firm is devoted to professional license defense cases, including a wide variety of healthcare related licensees, like physicians, nurses, veterinarians, and pharmacists. But the professional license defense attorneys at the Leichter Law Firm also have significant experience handling issues before the Texas Dental Board, including both licensure and disciplinary cases.
The spectrum of alleged acts that may subject a dentist to discipline from the board ranges from small administrative failures, like failing to properly display one’s registration, to much more complicated standard of care or substance abuse issues. Over the past couple of years, the Texas Dental Board has become much more active in the regulatory arena, coinciding with recent criticism from the press and legislature that the board was too lax in the enforcement of their rules and statutes. The result has been an increase in the number of open investigations.
The laws and procedures governing administrative agencies in the state of Texas are dictated by a specialized set of statutes and rules, and to complicate things further, each agency has its own statutes and rules that dictate the path of any disciplinary case, in the case of the Texas Dental Board those can be found at Chapter 251 of the Texas Occupations Code, and at Title 22, Part 5 of the Texas Administrative Code. Experience in front of the Dental Board specifically, and a firm grasp of administrative law are necessary in navigating the disciplinary process. The list below illustrates the procedural path of most of the Texas Dental Board’s disciplinary investigations:
- The Texas Dental Board is a complaint-driven agency. The opening of every investigation is premised on the receipt of a complaint from any number of sources, including individual citizens, hospitals, other healthcare professionals, other agencies, and even the Texas Dental Board themselves. Once received by the Board, every complaint is evaluated by the Board’s director of enforcement for jurisdiction- does the Board have authority to take any action based on the facts of the complaint?
- Investigation Phase
- If jurisdiction exists, then an investigation is opened into the complaint to determine the facts of the case. The investigator will potentially gather further information from the complainant, as well as any relevant dental records. The dentist whose license is at issue is often given a copy of the complaint at this point, and is given a chance to respond. This process can take quite a long time.
- When the investigation is completed, the Director of Enforcement can recommend that the case be closed, returned for further investigation, referred for an informal settlement conference, or sent to the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
- Temporary Suspension
- At the initiation of the investigation phase, if the investigation reveals that the licensee represents an imminent threat to the public’s welfare, the case is referred to the Executive Director, who decides whether to refer the case for a temporary suspension. A temporary suspension is a very serious measure, and is reserved for cases where it is perceived by board staff that an imminent threat to the public welfare exists in the continuing practice of a dentist.
- Informal Settlement Conference
- If the Director of Enforcement believes a violation exists, the case may be referred for an informal settlement conference (ISC). The ISC is an opportunity for the licensee to sit down at a table with three representatives from the board, and a few members of Board staff, and explain their side of the story. Sometimes this results in dismissal of the case, if the board panel is satisfied with what they hear. Alternatively, it could end with the recommendation of an “Agreed Order”.
- Agreed Order Negotiation
- If an Agreed Order is recommended out of the ISC, the licensee has 30 days to decide whether they will accept it or reject it (and allow the case to be filed at SOAH). Alternatively, the licensee and their attorney may also negotiate with Board staff to remove or alter various facts and terms contained in the Order.
- Contested Case Hearing at SOAH;
- If the case is not settled through an Agreed Order at the agency level, then board staff will file the case at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), where an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), unaffiliated with the Dental Board will hold a formal hearing and issue a Proposal for Decision.
- Probation and Compliance;
- Licensees on Agreed Orders are monitored by the Board’s compliance department to ensure compliance, including completion of continuing education and payment of fines.
In carrying out their mandate of safeguarding the dental health of Texas, the Texas Dental Board casts a wide net as to what constitutes a violation of the Dental Practice Act (DPA). The board classifies all potential violations into six categories, including: quality of care; sanitation; professional conduct; administration; dental laboratories; and business promotion. The following represents a general list of substantive matters, or potential violations, the license defense attorneys of the Leichter Law Firm have dealt with:
- Criminal charges;
- Substance abuse, chemical dependency or the intemperate use of controlled substances;
- Unprofessional conduct;
- Fraudulent billing practices;
- Non-therapeutic or over prescribing;
- Discipline by a peer group or other State Licensing Board;
- Standard of care violations.
The professional license defense attorneys at the Leichter Law Firm have extensive experience working with the Texas Dental Board. For an idea of the success our firm has had in dealing with the Texas Dental Board, please refer to our list of representative cases. If you are a licensee of the Texas Dental Board with an open investigation, and would like more information as to how we can help you, please call the professional license defense attorneys of the Leichter Law Firm today at 512-495-9995.