The South Carolina Board of Dentistry is the regulatory body that deals with license suspension, revocation and limitations in case of any complaints against dentists, dental hygienists, and dental techs. Some of the most common reasons of complaints being filed against dental professionals include:
- Practicing while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
- Criminal conduct
- Allowing unauthorized/unlicensed staff to perform professional tasks
- Physical and/or sexual abuse
- Fraudulent records or claims for reimbursement
- Performing tasks beyond the scope of practice
- Drug or alcohol addiction
Any of these actions can result in license revocation, suspension, denial and heavy fines.
Who Can File a Complaint Against a South Carolina Dental Hygienist?
Complaints against a dentist can be filed by a patient, an employee or any other dental professional. The South Carolina Dental Board will investigate the complaint before making a decision regarding that particular dentist’s license. In most cases, when a complaint is filed, the dentist will receive a call from an investigator with the South Carolina Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (LLR).
When we talk about license suspension or revocation for dental hygienists, it is important to understand that both dentists and dental hygienists are regulated by the same Board. However, there are Board policies that are specifically targeted towards dental hygienists to ensure that they do not engage in any professional activities that are outside the scope of their practice and qualification.
Before we delve into those specific policies, it is important to first understand the primary differences between dentists and dental hygienists so that it is more clear why the Board has certain regulations in place for dental hygienists.
What is the Difference Between a Dentist and a Dental Hygienist?
Dentists and dental hygienists usually work together, but there are some very distinct differences between these two dental professionals. Dentists have a degree and have to attend four years of dental school before they can get the authorization to practice whereas a dental hygienist has to complete a two-year associate degree in dental hygiene. While both have to be licensed to practice, a dentist needs a license specific to their state. Dental hygienist clean teeth, check for oral disease and are basically responsible for the overall oral hygiene of the patient. Dentists, on the other hand, have the qualification to diagnose problems, evaluate x-rays, repair teeth, prescribe medicine and perform procedures such as root canals, cavity fillings, dental crowns, etc. Finally, dentists are considered actual doctors and are paid much more than dental hygienists. It may be interesting to note that there are more dental hygienists than dentists in the U.S. Hence it is important to understand how and under what circumstances can dental hygienists lose their license.
There are several specific Board policies that dentists and dental hygienists must abide by if they want to retain their license. For example, the Board clearly specifies that a dental hygienist can administer local infiltration anesthesia only if they have certification by the board and when they are under the direct supervision of a practicing dentist. Procedures involving Botox and other injectables can be performed by dentists but only by those licensed in South Carolina and only after they have obtained consent from the patient, have a bonafide relationship with the patient, have an appropriate clinical setting where they will perform the procedure, have an on-site dentist, limit the use of these procedures to the perioral area, are performing the procedure for a dental purpose, have proper documentation that is acceptable to the Board, are a licensed general dentist and the procedures are limited to the injection of resorbable materials only.
Dental hygienists or dental assistants can monitor nitrous oxide anesthesia upon certification and when under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. Dental hygienists and dental assistants are not authorized by the Board to use an IV line nor are they authorized to draw sedative drugs into a syringe or to deliver drugs into an established IV line. They are also not authorized to use lasers when performing bleaching of teeth procedures. Use of laser is limited to isolation and clean-up procedures.
With respect to oral and maxillofacial surgery, only licensees that have successfully completed a residency in Oral and Maxillofacial surgery that is accredited by the American Dental Association, Commission on Dental Accreditation or a clinical fellowship of one continuous year in cosmetic surgery accredited by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons or by the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation or has privileges issued by any hospital, facility or office that is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations or AAAHC or State Dental Board can perform such procedures.
Whether a complaint is filed against a dentist or a dental hygienist, the procedure is the same. Anyone can file a complaint against a dental professional, and once that complaint is filed, a representative from the Board will contact the dentist or dental hygienist to inform them of the complaint and to get their response to the allegations. The dental professional, in turn, will be required to submit an explanation presenting their side of the story.
Should I Hire a Columbia, SC, License Defense Attorney?
If you are a practicing dental hygienist or professional in Columbia, SC and are in such a situation where a complaint has been filed against you, you should consult an attorney immediately. The investigator will push you to talk, and whether you are guilty or not guilty, it is in your interest to only talk to them once you have legal counsel. You need to understand that just because a complaint has been filed against you does not mean you are guilty or that you should just submit to the Board and let them revoke or suspend your license. You worked hard to get here, and you should work equally hard to defend your right to practice. At The Michael Jeffcoat Law Firm, we have a legal team that is experienced in dentistry license defense, and we will make sure your side of the story is presented in the right manner. There are often situations when patients or coworkers misread a situation or need a scapegoat to blame for an unfortunate situation. There are also times when patients overreact or become aggressive if the procedure does not go as planned. We understand and we are here to help you defend your right to continue to practice.