New Jersey Dental License Defense Lawyers: Protecting Your Reputation and Livelihood
Getting through dental school and building a successful practice takes years of hard work and dedication. But all that can be put at risk if you face disciplinary charges from the New Jersey Board of Dentistry. Even minor infractions can lead to license suspension or revocation if not handled properly. That’s why it’s critical to have an experienced New Jersey dental license defense lawyer on your side.
This article will provide an overview of common dental license issues in New Jersey, how charges can impact your career, and why hiring a knowledgeable attorney is essential. We’ll also discuss effective defense strategies used by dental license lawyers and how the right legal counsel can help mitigate penalties.
Understanding Dental License Defense
Dental license defense refers to legal representation for dentists facing disciplinary action from their state licensing board. In New Jersey, the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry oversees licensing and regulation for the dental profession.
The Board has the authority to investigate complaints, hold hearings, and impose disciplinary measures for violations of the state dental practice act. If the Board determines you violated regulations, they can issue penalties ranging from fines and continuing education requirements to license probation, suspension, or permanent revocation.
Some common reasons the Board may take action include:
- Substandard care and negligence
- Fraudulent billing practices
- Prescription drug violations
- Practicing without a valid license
- Failure to adhere to sanitation and infection control standards
- Unprofessional conduct
- Patient harm or abuse
- Criminal convictions
Even if charges are minor or unfounded, the licensing process itself can be intimidating. Experienced dental license defense lawyers understand the complexities involved and will aggressively defend your reputation, livelihood and ability to practice.
How Charges Can Impact Your Career
Disciplinary action from the New Jersey Board of Dentistry can have significant professional consequences. Depending on the severity, penalties may include:
- License suspension – Temporarily prohibits you from practicing for a set period of time
- Probation – Allows you to continue practicing under certain restrictions and close monitoring
- License revocation – Permanently terminates your dental license
- Fines – Financial penalties can range from $500 to $10,000 per violation
- Continuing education – Requirements for additional CE credits related to the offense
- Practice limitations – Restrictions on types of procedures or patients you can treat
- Public reprimand – A published statement about the disciplinary action that remains on your record
Even if your license is reinstated after a suspension, the black mark on your record can seriously impede your career. Many practices will not hire dentists with a history of license discipline. Hospitals, academic institutions, and other employers typically require a dental license in good standing.
And in today’s digital age, disciplinary actions are easily searchable online, following you for years to come. Patients may also hesitate to trust a dentist with a troubled past.
Why You Need an Experienced Attorney
Given the severe implications license discipline can bring, it’s essential to enlist an attorney who specializes in this area from the start. Dental license defense requires niche expertise and meticulous preparation.
Here’s why an experienced lawyer is critical:
- They understand dental regulations and disciplinary procedures. The intricacies of dental codes, standards of care, and Board protocols are complex. An attorney well-versed in these specifics can quickly spot procedural errors or oversights.
- They have relationships with Board officials. In some cases, an attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement or make a deal to reduce penalties. Their familiarity and rapport with the Board can facilitate this.
- They can find weaknesses in the complaint. An objective lawyer can examine the charges to identify any exaggerations, misleading statements or lack of evidence.
- They know how to present an effective defense. Presenting your case in the best light requires strategic preparation and skill. An experienced lawyer has defended many dentists through Board hearings.
- They can gather evidence and testimony. Your lawyer will collect documents, enlist experts, and prepare witnesses that support your defense.
- They understand the consequences. An attorney who regularly handles dental license cases knows what’s at stake for your career. They will fight aggressively to protect your interests.
Building an Effective Defense Strategy
Skilled dental license defense lawyers have a variety of tactics they may use to dispute charges and achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
- Reviewing the complaint thoroughly – They will analyze the details of the complaint and allegations against you to identify any inconsistencies, erroneous information, or lack of evidence. This enables them to undermine the credibility of the charges.
- Gathering evidence – Your attorney will collect documentation like dental records, charts, correspondence, and practice protocols that demonstrate you met the standard of care. Witness testimony from colleagues, employees, and character witnesses can also bolster your case.
- Consulting dental experts – Securing opinions from impartial dental experts can often refute claims of negligence or substandard treatment. Your lawyer may retain specialists who can author reports or provide testimony on your behalf.
- Negotiating with the Board – In some instances, your attorney can negotiate a settlement before charges escalate to a formal hearing. This may involve agreeing to penalties like additional CE credits or practice monitoring in lieu of suspensions.
- Presenting at hearings – During hearings, your lawyer will argue against the charges by presenting evidence and testimony supporting your defense. They will also vigorously cross-examine the Board’s witnesses.
- Appealing rulings – If the verdict goes against you, your lawyer can appeal the decision by demonstrating errors in the Board’s ruling or investigative process.
- Seeking expungement – In the case of certain minor offenses, your attorney may be able to petition to have the disciplinary action expunged from your record after a period of time.
How the Right Attorney Can Help
The consequences of losing your dental license can be professionally and financially devastating. Even if you regain your license, a blemish on your record can permanently hinder your career and reputation.
The right lawyer can help mitigate penalties, disputing unjust charges and negotiating for lesser disciplinary measures. In many cases, an experienced attorney can resolve the issue without a suspension or revocation.
They can also advise on responding to patient complaints early to prevent issues from escalating. In the event your case does go to a hearing, skilled legal counsel is essential for presenting an ironclad defense.
While legal representation can involve significant costs, the investment is minor compared to the loss of your professional livelihood. And many malpractice insurance policies will cover a portion of legal expenses for Board disciplinary proceedings.
When choosing an attorney, it’s advisable to seek out specialists with extensive experience in dental license defense cases. Ask about their specific track record defending dentists before the New Jersey Board of Dentistry.
Look for lawyers who are well-versed in the state’s dental regulations and have relationships with Board members. Also consider attorneys who have experience arguing before the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law, which adjudicates license disciplinary cases.
Navigating Common Dental License Violations in New Jersey
The New Jersey State Board of Dentistry enforces the state dental practice act, which establishes codes of conduct and standards of care for licensed dentists. Violating these rules can prompt Board disciplinary action.
Some of the most common dental license violations include:
Negligence and Substandard Care
The Board may investigate complaints about treatment quality and allegations of harm caused by negligent or reckless practice. Examples include:
- Extracting the wrong tooth
- Nerve damage from injections
- Disfiguring crowns or veneers
- Failed root canals necessitating re-treatment
- Ill-fitting dentures causing pain or sores
- Permanent paresthesia from inferior procedures
Defending against substandard care charges involves presenting dental records and expert testimony to demonstrate you met the accepted standard of care. Alternative explanations for the patient’s claimed injuries may also be explored.
Allegations of insurance fraud, misleading billing codes, and billing for services not performed can all lead to Board discipline. Common issues include:
- Billing for non-rendered services
- Using the wrong CDT codes
- Double billing patients and insurance
- Performing unnecessary treatments for profit
- Misrepresenting treatment needs
A knowledgeable lawyer can often demonstrate these were unintentional errors that do not constitute purposeful fraud. Thorough record reviews are key to refuting fraudulent billing claims.
Prescription Regulation Violations
The Board closely regulates controlled substance prescribing by dentists. Violations include:
- Overprescribing narcotics
- Prescribing without a legitimate dental purpose
- Failure to review the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (NJPMP)
- Inadequate recordkeeping for narcotic scripts
An effective defense may show you acted responsibly in prescribing within the proper standard of care for the patient’s documented condition. Evidence of diligent prescription monitoring and recordkeeping can also dispute allegations.
License Practice Violations
Engaging in any dental practice without a valid, current license is illegal and subject to Board discipline. Common issues include:
- Allowing license to lapse or expire
- Continuing to practice on a suspended license
- Practicing beyond scope permitted by specialty license
- Practicing without a permit while license application is pending
Quickly correcting any lapses in licensure and cooperating with Board directives can help mitigate consequences for unlicensed practice violations.
Infection Control Breaches
Failing to follow accepted sterilization, disinfection, and personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols violates Board infection control standards. For example:
- Reusing disposable instruments
- Improper hand hygiene
- Inadequate surface disinfection
- Lack of barrier techniques
In some cases, deficient infection control may be due to outdated office policies or staff errors. Your lawyer can demonstrate you have since corrected any deficiencies through staff retraining and policy updates.
Criminal convictions for offenses like DUI, tax fraud, and assault can prompt Board disciplinary action if they call your “moral character” into question. Your attorney can argue such offenses were unrelated to professional practice and do not warrant license discipline.
For drug-related crimes, demonstrating successful rehabilitation may help mitigate penalties. In some minor cases, your lawyer may be able to negotiate pre-trial interventions to avoid convictions appearing on your record.