As a California dentist or hygienist, you may have your professional license suspended or revoked if you are convicted of certain crimes that are “substantially related” to the qualifications and duties of a dentist.
A few examples include convictions for crimes involving
- theft, or
The Dental Board of California may also disqualify you from getting licenses for either:
- having a criminal conviction, within seven years from the date of your license application, which was substantially related to dentistry,
- having a past criminal conviction, from any time, that is for a serious offense (such as murder, rape, or grand theft), or
- having a criminal conviction from any time for a sex offense that requires Tier II or Tier III sex offender registration.
Note that before taking disciplinary action against you for a criminal conviction, the Board must allow you to attend an administrative hearing.
The hearing is essentially a mini-trial held before an administrative law judge. The
- Board presents evidence showing why the judge should impose discipline, and
- you then present evidence on your behalf.
Discipline is imposed if the judge finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that discipline is appropriate. This burden of proof is a lower standard than the “by a reasonable doubt” burden used in California criminal trials.
You can always appeal the Board’s decision to suspend or revoke your license.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. Who regulates dental professionals in California?
- 2. Does a criminal charge lead to disciplinary action?
- 3. What kinds of criminal convictions trigger Board discipline?
- 4. Does evidence of rehabilitation help?
- 5. What happens after the Board learns of a conviction?
- 6. What happens at a formal hearing?
- 7. Can I appeal the Board’s decision to suspend or revoke my dental license?
- 8. Can I become a dentist with a criminal history?
- Additional resources
1. Who regulates dental professionals in California?
The Dental Board of California regulates
- hygienists, and
- registered dental assistants.
The Dental Board is a governmental agency within the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
The Board’s mission is to protect dental patients in accordance with the Dental Practice Act.1
The Board can discipline you by:
- reprimanding you,
- placing you on probation, or
- suspending or revoking your dental license if conclusive evidence of unprofessional conduct, incompetence, gross negligence, and repeated acts of negligence.2
2. Does a criminal charge lead to disciplinary action?
No. A criminal charge alone does not result in the Board investigating you or taking disciplinary action.
Rather, the Board will initiate action against you if you are convicted of a crime.
Note that convictions include both felony and misdemeanor convictions that happen by way of:
- guilty pleas and verdicts (after judgment has been entered), and
- “no contest” pleas (after judgment has been entered).
The Dental Board can take disciplinary action even if you successfully completed a court-ordered diversion program.4
A conviction becomes actionable when:
- the time for appeal has elapsed,
- the judgment has been affirmed on appeal, or
- an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence.
Keep in mind that you have no concrete mandate to provide unsolicited ongoing arrest or conviction information to the Board, as is the case with doctors.5
However, the Board has a number of ways of finding out about concealed convictions. For example, court clerks must send the Dental Board copies of convictions and other criminal information.6
The Board also has an in-house Enforcement Unit staffed by sworn law enforcement officers who investigate complaints. They could discover a concealed conviction in the course of an investigation.
Note, too, that deceit by you is, in and of itself, a basis for discipline.
3. What kinds of criminal convictions trigger Board discipline?
Criminal convictions that are “substantially related” to the
- functions, or
of a dentist or dental assistant can trigger discipline.7
This includes convictions for any crime or act:
“if to a substantial degree it evidences present or potential unfitness of a licensee to perform the functions authorized by his license in a manner consistent with the public health, safety, or welfare.”8
The following are some examples of crimes that the Board has considered substantially related to dentistry:
- improper rebating,9
- receiving stolen property,10
- possession of a forged instrument,11
- crimes involving drugs, alcohol, or substance abuse,13
- possession of controlled substances,14
- insurance fraud, including prescription fraud,15
- driving under the influence (DUI),16
- exhibiting a deadly weapon,17 and
- lewd act on a child.18
4. Does evidence of rehabilitation help?
Yes. In determining whether and how to discipline you, the Board is required to consider whether you have been rehabilitated from your criminal activity.19
In making this determination, the Board will consider:
- the severity of the offense,
- the total criminal record,
- the time that has elapsed since the offense,
- your compliance with probation or parole terms,
- evidence of expungement, and
- other evidence of rehabilitation.20
“Other evidence of rehabilitation” can include:
- remedial education,
- letters of reference, and
- 12-step participation.
The goal is for you to show the Dental Board that you have sincerely come to terms with the crime you were convicted of, and are committed to moving forward in a positive way.
5. What happens after the Board learns of a conviction?
Once the Board learns of your conviction, it assigns the matter to an investigator. The investigator interviews you and reviews the police and court records related to your conviction.
If the investigator finds evidence suggesting that discipline is appropriate, the Board serves a formal “Accusation” on you. The Accusation serves as notice that the Dental Board is considering suspending or revoking your dental license.21
In some cases, once the Board serves an Accusation, it can enter into a Stipulated Agreement with you and the California Attorney General’s Office. A Stipulated Agreement serves as a settlement agreement where all parties agree to settle the case subject to certain terms and conditions.
If a settlement is not reached, the case proceeds to a formal hearing.
6. What happens at a formal hearing?
Formal hearings are administrative hearings conducted before an administrative law judge (ALJ) and are held at the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).
The hearings are basically mini-trials. A lawyer from the Attorney General’s Office makes the case for the Board as to:
- why discipline is appropriate, and
- what type of discipline the judge should impose.
You then present testimony and evidence in your defense. This evidence includes any evidence of rehabilitation.
The ALJ will issue a Written Proposed Decision typically within 30 days after the hearing. The decision sets forth the ALJ’s recommendation as to disciplinary actions. The Board can either adopt it, modify it, or reject it entirely.
If the Dental Board rejects a decision, it sets forth whatever disciplinary action it deems appropriate.
7. Can I appeal the Board’s decision to suspend or revoke my dental license?
Yes. You can appeal a license revocation or suspension. The appeal is heard by a California Superior Court, which reviews all of the evidence that was presented in the administrative hearing.
You must file an appeal within 30 days of the effective date of the Board’s final decision.
If you lose on appeal, you can try to petition the Board for the reinstatement of your license.
8. Can I become a dentist with a criminal history?
Maybe. The issue depends on the type of offense you were convicted of and when the conviction occurred.
The Dental Board of California may deny you from getting your dental or hygienist license if you have been convicted in the past seven years of a crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of dentistry. The term “substantially related” carries the same meaning as discussed above.
In addition, the Dental Board may deny you from getting your dental or hygienist license if you have a criminal conviction, no matter how old, for either:
- an offense for which you have to register as a Tier II or Tier III sex offender, or
- a serious offense, as defined in Section 1192.7 of the Penal Code.
Examples of “serious crimes” under PC 1192.7 include:
The Dental Board does permit you to appeal if your denial was based on having a criminal history.23
Refer to the following for various dental organizations:
- California Dental Association (CDA) – Statewide professional association representing 32,000 dentists committed to improving oral health care through advocacy, education, service, and community partnerships.
- California Society of Pediatric Dentistry (CSPD) – Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, representing over 1,300 pediatric dentists in California dedicated to advancing optimal oral health for infants, children, adolescents and patients with special health care needs through advocacy, education and promotion of the highest professional standards.
- American Society for Geriatric Dentistry – Organization dedicated to promoting oral health and well-being for older adults through education, advocacy, collaboration, and accessibility to dental care across all settings.
- American Dental Association (ADA) – Largest national association representing over 163,000 dentists committed to improving oral healthcare through advocacy, education, research, promotion of professional standards, and providing resources to advance the profession.
- American Association of Endodontists (AAE) – Membership organization representing over 8,000 endodontists globally dedicated to excellence in endodontic care through advocacy, education, research, and professional development.
- See California Business and Professions Code Section 1600 et seq. See also California Code of Regulations Title 17, Division 10 (Dental Board of California).
- California Business and Professions Code Section 1670.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 1670.1.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 492.
- See, for example, California Business and Professions Code 802.1.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 803.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 1670.1.
- California Code of Regulations, Title 16, 1019.
- Solak v. Dental Board of California, Cal.Ct App. (2010).
- Dental Board of California, Enforcement Unit Hot Sheet (2009), In the matter of the Accusation Against Bertha Arroyo (RDA) (2009).
- See same, In the matter of the Statement of Issues Against Jane Ann Carlson (RDA applicant), Case No. DBC 2008-43 (2009).
- See same, In the Matter of the Statement of Issues Against Shalaya Finley (RDA applicant), Case No. DBC 2008-109 (2009).
- California Business and Professions Code Section 1681.
- Dental Board of California, Enforcement Unit Hot Sheet (2009), In the matter of the Accusation Against Jattie Endfinger (RDA), Case No. DBC 2008-82.
- In the Matter of the Statement of Issues Against Shalaya Finley, supra.
- In the Matter of the Accusation Against Jattie Endfinger, supra. See also Griffiths v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 96 Cal.App.4th 757 (2002).
- Dental Board of California, Enforcement Unit Hot Sheet (2009), In the Matter of the Accusation Against Lilian Morales-Comparini (RDA), Case No. DBC 2008-11.
- In the Matter of the Accusation Against Scott Henning (DDS), Case No. 01-2008-2825 (2009).
- California Business and Professions Code Section 482.
- California Code of Regulations, Title 16, 1020.
- See California Government Code Section 11503.
- California Penal Code 1192.7 PC.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 480. Assembly Bill 2138.