The Board of Dentistry's mission is to ensure that Minnesota citizens receive quality dental care from competent dental health professionals. One of the ways the Board achieves this goal is by taking corrective or disciplinary action when the Minnesota Dental Practice Act (Minn. Statute 150A) has been violated by a dentist, dental hygienist or dental assistant.
Information regarding possible violations comes to the attention of the Board through written complaints. Complaints may be filed by anyone. Complaints are not public information and may not be discussed with anyone except the respondent (subject of the investigation) and the complainant. The Board is mandated to investigate all jurisdictional complaints against regulated individuals.
The Board receives and processes approximately 200-300 complaints each year. Because of the number of complaints, it is usually necessary that two Complaint Committees exist at any given time to process complaints in a timely manner.
The Board of Dentistry Complaint Committees
The two Complaint Committees are each comprised of three current Board members who have agreed to serve on a Complaint Committee. Currently, one Committee is composed of two dentist members and a dental hygienist and the second Committee is composed of two dentists and a licensed dental assistant.
Protocol for Complaint Processing
1. Complaint Registration. When a potential complainant calls the office for information about filing a complaint, the Complaint Analyst mails a packet of information that includes a cover letter, a Complaint Registration form, an Authorization to Release Complaint form and a Records Waiver Authorization form.
2. Complaint File Set Up. When the complaint registration packet is returned to the Board office, the Complaint Analyst assigns a file number to it and the file is then assigned to one of the Complaint Committees.
3. Investigation of Complaints. For most complaints, the analyst will obtain a written response from the dentist through a letter of inquiry. The purpose of a letter of inquiry is to obtain the licensees typewritten response to a given complaint and, along with all pertinent dental records.
Complaints alleging certain misconduct must, by law, be investigated by the Minnesota Attorney Generals Office (AGO). The Complaint Committee may forward other complaints to the Attorney Generals Office. The purpose of an AGO investigation is to gather sufficient evidence from sources in addition to the licensee to either refute or confirm that a statute or rule has been violated, so that the Complaint Committee can sufficiently establish the facts in a case.
Pursuant to Minn. Statute Chapter 214, complaints alleging the following types of misconduct must be forwarded to the Attorney Generals Office:
- Any violation of chapter 609 (relates to criminal conviction);
- Any conduct which would have to be reported under Minn. Statute 626.556 (relates to abuse of a minor or a vulnerable adult);
- Any sexual contact or sexual conduct with a client;
- Any violation of federal law;
- Any actual or potential inability to practice the regulated profession or occupation by reason of illness, use of alcohol, drugs, chemicals or any other material, or as a result of any mental or physical condition;
- Any violation of state medical assistance laws;
- Any disciplinary action related to credentialing in another jurisdiction or county which was based on the same or related conduct specified in Minn. Statute 214.103, subdivision 8 ( see a-f ), above ).
4.Outside Consultant Reviews. The Complaint Committee or the Attorney Generals Office may request that a consultant review the complaint material to determine if the dentists treatment met the minimum standard of care.
Types of Actions
A complaint is closed when two or more Complaint Committee members vote to close the matter after a review of the alleged violations and the licensees response to the allegations.
A response is obtained through a letter of inquiry and/or through an appearance before the Complaint Committee. Based on a review of the information, the Committee may close the matter if it determines that disciplinary action or corrective action were not warranted in the matter.
In regard to alleged substandard dental treatment, the Committee may choose to close a complaint if they determine that the treatment did not constitute gross incompetence and/or repeated performance of substandard care (pursuant to the Minnesota Dental Practice Act).
The complaint and the licensees letter of response are retained in the Board's nonpublic files. If the Board receives additional complaints of a similar nature in the future, the Complaint Committee may choose to reopen a closed complaint.
2. Agreement for Corrective Action.
Purpose: An Agreement for Corrective Action is used (1) to resolve complaints which allege minor violation(s) of the dental practice act, and (2) when the nature of the violation(s) does not warrant disciplinary action.
The Agreement for Corrective Action:
- An Agreement for Corrective Action is expected to lead to dismissal.
- It is not intended for long-term monitoring or conditions (whereas a Board order may place limits or conditions for long time periods);
- It is a public agreement, but it is not considered disciplinary action, and therefore, is not reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank.
- Agreement for Corrective Action's are public information, but are not published on the Board's website. These documents, however, are available upon request by contacting the Board office.
3. Disciplinary Order.
Purpose: A licensee is placed under the Board order to protect the public from mistreatment or misconduct by the individual and to hold the individual accountable for past actions.
The Stipulation and Order:
- When the Complaint Committee finds the licensee in violation of the Dental Practice Act, it will ask the licensee to voluntarily enter into a Stipulation and Order to place conditions and/or limitations on their license.
- The Stipulation is an agreement between the licensee and the Complaint Committee in which the licensee agrees that certain restrictions should be imposed on their license as a result of the committee having identified areas in which the individual violated the Dental Practice Act.
- The Order is issued by the full board when it has reviewed and ratified the Stipulation between the Complaint Committee and the licensee. The Order implements the terms of the stipulation. The Stipulation and Order are incorporated into one written document.
- Should the licensee refuse to agree to stipulate to the conditions or limitations offered by the Complaint Committee, or if the full Board rejects the proposed Stipulation and order, the matter may proceed to a contested case hearing initiated under the Administrative Procedures Act. The hearing is held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and involves the presentation of testimony and submission of exhibits in a manner similar to a civil trial.
- If the Complaint Committee is successful at the contested case hearing the ALJ will indicate that the Boards position is correct and make a recommendation which will be limited to discipline or no discipline. After reviewing the ALJ report, the Board may issue a Findings of Fact, Conclusion of Law and Order, which describes the disciplinary action taken against the licensee.
Types of disciplinary actions:
- Conditional license. This permits the individual to continue to practice, but must meet certain conditions within a specified time period.
- Limited / restricted license. This permits the individual to continue to practice, but only within well-defined parameters. Some orders allow for the limitation to be lifted once certain conditions are met.
- Suspension. This requires the individual to cease all practice until the suspension is lifted.
[Note: If the Complaint Committee determines that there is an imminent risk of harm to the public, they may act quickly to temporarily suspend a license. Within 10 days of the suspension, the Board will hold a hearing before its own members to determine whether the suspension should be continued, modified or lifted. Evidence may be presented by the Board or the licensee in affidavit form only. The licensee, or their counsel, may appear for oral argument. Within five working days of the hearing, the Board shall issue its order. If the suspension is continued, based on a finding that the licensee has violated the Dental Practice Act, the licensee is entitled to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge within 45 days of the issuance of the suspension order.]
- Voluntary Surrender. This action is taken when an individual agrees to surrender their license as a resolution to violations found in their practice.
- Revocation. This action results in the individuals license being annulled altogether. This is the most extreme disciplinary action that can be taken by the Board.
4. Dismissal. A complaint is dismissed when:
- Two or more Complaint Committee members decide a matter is non-jurisdictional.
- Two or more Complaint Committee members have accepted the licensees completion of the requirements of his/her Agreement for Corrective Action.
- The Board approves an Order for Unconditional License for the licensee who has completed the requirements of his/her disciplinary order.