Dentists and dental hygienists face possible license suspension if they get convicted of a Colorado felony or Colorado drug crime. They are also required to "self-report" their criminal records to the state board within 90 days of the conviction; failure to report is grounds for possible license suspension also.
Similar to doctors, Colorado dentists are not required to give fingerprints as part of the license application process. But they are expected to fully disclose their criminal record on their application.
Practicing dentistry without a valid and current license is a Colorado misdemeanor, carrying a punishment of:
- 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
- $250 to $1,000 in fines
In this article, our Denver 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
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: [email protected]
The application to get a dental or dental hygienist license in Colorado requires that the applicant reveal any past criminal history. This includes not only past convictions but also past arrests or charges that never resulted in a conviction.
Applicants 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 their criminal histories have no bearing on their professional competence and character. But if the CDB discovers that applicants were not forthcoming about their criminal history, it may deny them a license just for that reason.2
If an applicant has had their criminal record sealed or expunged, he/she 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. (Also see our information pages on Colorado record seals and Colorado record expungements.)
Dentists and dental hygienists in Colorado have 90 days to inform the CDB of any criminal convictions they get for a:
- drug crime, and/or
- any other offense that constitutes grounds for discipline3
After the CDB gets notified that a licensed dentist or dental hygienist has 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 the dentist/hygienist;
- place the dentist/hygienist on probation;
- suspend the license; and/or
- revoke the license
The dentist or hygienist being disciplined can request an administrative hearing in front of the CBD to contest the punishment. These hearings resemble an informal mini-trial, and the dentist or hygienist can bring an attorney and present evidence.
Note that If the CDB learns that a dentist or hygienist neglected to report a conviction, the CDB could discipline him/her on that basis alone.
Also note that dentists and hygienists who lose their license may not apply for another one until at least two years have gone by.4
Facing a tribunal of peers and colleagues during a disciplinary hearing can be very intimidating and scary. Dentists (or dental hygienists) facing possible license suspension or revocation by the CDB are encouraged to hire an experienced attorney to help advocate on their 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:
- the dentist has an otherwise clean criminal history;
- the criminal convictions at issue do not impinge on the dentist's ability to deliver competent health care services;
- the dentist is well-regarded by other dentists in the community;
- the dentist has 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 about the dentist facing discipline. 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.
Practicing as a dentist or dental hygienist without a current and valid license is against Colorado law. The penalties grow harsher with each successive conviction.
A first-time offense of practicing dentistry without a license is a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado. The sentence is:
- 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
- $250 to $1,000 in fines
A subsequent offense of practicing dentistry without a license is a class 6 felony in Colorado. The sentence is:
- 1 year to 18 months in Colorado State Prison, and/or
- $1,000 to $100,000 in fines5
Furthermore, people with past convictions of the unauthorized practice of dentistry could be barred from getting a license from the CDB.
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.
Call a Colorado criminal defense attorney...
Are you a dentist or dental hygienist who has been arrested in Colorado? Then our Denver criminal defense attorneys are here to fight to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Call us at 303-222-0330 for a FREE consultation. If you have already been convicted of a crime in Colorado, we can also help defend you in front of the Dental Board and fight to keep your dental license.
In California? See our article about how criminal convictions affect dental licenses in California.
In Nevada? See our article about how criminal convictions affect dental licenses in Nevada.
- 12-35-104 C.R.S.; 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).
- 12-35-129 C.R.S.
- 12-35-129.1 C.R.S.
- 12-35-135 C.R.S.