If you are a dentist or dental hygienist in Colorado, you face a possible license suspension if you get convicted of a felony or drug crime. Though you can contest any disciplinary measures at an administrative hearing.
Here are four key things to know:
- You are required to “self-report” convictions to the state board within 90 days.
- You are not required to give fingerprints as part of the license application process.
- Though you are expected to fully disclose your criminal record on your application.
- Practicing dentistry without a license is a misdemeanor, carrying up to 120 days in jail and/or up to $750.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss how criminal convictions affect dental licenses in Colorado. Click on a topic to jump to that section:
- 1. Who regulates licenses
- 2. Applying for a license with a criminal record
- 3. Discipline following a criminal conviction
- 4. Fighting disciplinary penalties
- 5. Working as a dentist without a license
- 6. Other professional licenses
- Additional resources
1. Who regulates dental licenses in Colorado
The Colorado Dental Board (CDB) determines who gets licenses to practice as a dentist or a dental hygienist in the state. The CDB is composed of thirteen members chosen by the Colorado governor to serve four-year terms. The CDB consists of:
- seven dentists (DDS or DMD),
- three dental hygienists (a.k.a. oral hygienists), and
- three members of the public1
The CDB is located at:
1560 Broadway, Suite 1350
Denver, CO 80202
The phone number is 303-894-7800. The fax number is 303-894-7764. And the email is: [email protected].
2. Applying for a dental license with a criminal record in Colorado
The application to get a dental or dental hygienist license in Colorado requires that you reveal any past criminal history. This includes:
- not only past convictions but also
- past arrests or charges that never resulted in a conviction.
You do not have to submit fingerprints for a formal background check. However, the CDB conducts audits where it checks its licensure database against various criminal databases.
In practice, the CDB will not deny licenses to qualified dentists and hygienists as long as your criminal history has no bearing on your professional competence and character. Though if the CDB discovers that you were not forthcoming about your criminal history, it may deny you a license just for that reason.2
If you had your criminal record sealed or expunged, you should first discuss with an attorney about the pros and cons of disclosing the record in the license application. In most cases, it is more important to be truthful with the CBD than to try to hide a sealed or expunged criminal record.
3. Discipline for dentists following a criminal conviction in Colorado
If you are a dentist or dental hygienist in Colorado, you have 90 days to inform the CDB of any criminal convictions you get for a:
- drug crime, and/or
- any other offense that constitutes grounds for discipline3
After the CDB gets notified that you have been convicted, it will commence an investigation. Depending on the seriousness of the circumstances, the Board may elect to either:
- not do anything;
- impose an administrative fine;
- censure you;
- place you on probation;
- suspend your license; and/or
- revoke your license
You can request an administrative hearing in front of the CBD to contest the punishment. These hearings resemble an informal mini-trial, and you can bring an attorney and present evidence.
Note that if the CDB learns that you neglected to report a conviction, the CDB could discipline you on that basis alone.4
4. Fighting discipline by the Colorado Dental Board
Facing a tribunal of peers and colleagues during a disciplinary hearing can be very intimidating and scary. You are encouraged to hire an experienced attorney to help advocate on your behalf.
How best to contest disciplinary measures always depends on the unique circumstances of each case. In general, an attorney would try to show the CDB that:
- you have an otherwise clean criminal history;
- the criminal convictions at issue do not impinge on your ability to deliver competent health care services;
- you are well-regarded by other dentists in the community;
- you have followed all the judge’s orders in the criminal case
In some cases, it may be helpful for co-workers, patients, and fellow dentists to write letters of support to the CDB. The CDB appreciates how every dentist goes through years of school and training to provide a service that every person needs, and the CDB is loath to disqualify one unless absolutely necessary.
5. Penalties for the unauthorized practice of dentistry in Colorado
Practicing as a dentist or dental hygienist without a current and valid license is against Colorado law. Practicing dentistry without a license is a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado. The sentence is:
- up to 120 days in jail and/or
- up to $750 in fines.5
Furthermore, if you have past convictions of the unauthorized practice of dentistry, you could be barred from getting a license from the CDB.
6. Other professional licenses in Colorado
6.1. Medical licenses
Doctors do not need to submit to criminal background checks prior to applying for a medical license in Colorado (unless they are applying for a “compact license” that would expedite licensure in other states). Learn more about discipline for doctors with criminal convictions in Colorado.
6.2. Nursing licenses
A nurse’s license could be in jeopardy if he/she gets convicted of a felony. Learn more about discipline for nurses with criminal convictions in Colorado.
6.3. Real estate licenses
Realtors may lose their licenses if they pick up a criminal conviction. Learn more about discipline for Colorado realtors with criminal convictions.
6.4. Contractor licenses
Electrical and plumbing contractors could lose their licenses if they get convicted of a felony. Learn more about Colorado contractor licenses and how criminal convictions affect them.
6.5. Social work licenses
Having a criminal history could prevent social workers from getting a license. Learn more about how a criminal record affects social work licenses in Colorado.
6.6. Accountancy licenses
CPAs do not have to submit fingerprints with their license application. Learn more about how a criminal record affects accountancy licenses in Colorado.
6.7. Law licenses
Attorneys convicted of “serious crimes” may have their bar card immediately suspended. Learn more about how a criminal conviction affects law licenses in Colorado.
For more information, refer to these resources:
- Colorado Dental Board: Licensing Services.
- Colorado Dental Association – Professional association of dentists.
- 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.
- CRS 12-220-204 (formerly CRS 12-35-104); 3 CCR 709-1.
- Dentist (DEN) Original License Application Checklist, Department of Regulatory Agencies; Dental Hygienist (DH) Application Checklist, Department of Regulatory Agencies; Kevin Simpson, “No fingerprint-based background checks for Colorado health care professionals; bill dies in committee,” Denver Post (May 5, 2017).
- CRS 12-220-201 (formerly 12-35-129).
- See same.
- CRS 12-220-211 (formerly CRS 12-35-135). Prior to March 1, 2022, subsequent offenses were class 6 felonies punishable by 12 to 18 months in jail and/or $1,000 to $100,000. And class 2 misdemeanors were punished by 3 to 12 months in jail and/or $250 to $1,000 in fines. SB21-271.