When a dentist injures a patient due to negligence or otherwise improper behavior, the patient has several options. First, the patient may wish to pursue a lawsuit. Another option for the aggrieved patient would be to file a Florida Board of Dentistry complaint. Lawsuits can be very expensive because dental malpractice is subject to the rules governing medical malpractice, and these rules require dental malpractice lawyers to hire a dental expert witness. These expert witnesses are expensive, and their fees can easily add thousands of dollars to the cost of litigation. A case that does not involve serious money in medical damages may not warrant a dental malpractice lawsuit because the case would cost more to litigate than the case is worth. Therefore, sometimes the best option and the only sensible option for an aggrieved patient is to file an administrative complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry.
Some of the more common reasons an aggrieved patient may file an administrative complaint against their dentist is because the dentist engaged in any the following:
- Practicing negligently;
- Practicing below the standard of care;
- Committing an advertising violation;
- Engaging in sexual misconduct with a patient;
- Errors in prescribing medications; or
- Failure to release the patient’s medical records.
If any of the above issues apply to you, you may have grounds for filing an administrative complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry.
Statute Of Limitations For Filing An Administrative Complaint With The Florida Board Of Dentistry
Another reason a patient may want to file a complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry is because the statute of limitations for dental malpractice is shorter than the statute of limitations for filing the administrative complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry. For example, the dental malpractice statute of limitations in Florida is 2 years from the date of the procedure that injured the patient, but that 2 years can be extended to 4 years under the statute of repose, depending on when the patient learned that he or she had suffered injuries due to dental malpractice. The statute of limitations for filing a complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry, however, is 6 years from the last date of treatment.
There are exceptions for the statute of limitations in both dental malpractice lawsuits and for filing a complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry. The exception for the dental malpractice statute of limitations in Florida is fraud. More specifically, if the patient can show that the dentist’s fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation of fact prevented the patient’s discovery of the injury, then the statute of limitations may be extended an additional 2 years from the time that the patient discovered the injury or should have discovered the injury with the exercise of due diligence. However, even in the presence of fraud, the dental malpractice statute of limitations will not exceed 7 years from the date the actual malpractice occurred.
The exceptions for the statute of limitations for filing a complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry include the same exceptions as above involving fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation of fact that prevented the patient from discovering the violation. In those circumstances, the statute of limitations to file a complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry can be extended forward, but it cannot be extended beyond 12 years from the date of the incident or occurrence. Additionally, any claims that involve criminal actions, controlled substances, sexual misconduct, or allegations that the dentist was impaired may be investigated beyond the 6-year statute of limitations.
The Florida Department Of Health
In Florida, the Department of Health is responsible for investigating complaints patients make against dentists and medical providers. Thus, the Florida Department of Health is essentially the enforcement agency for the Florida Board of Dentistry. Whereas a dental malpractice lawsuit may result in a settlement or a judgment against the dentist, any action the Florida Department of Health takes against a dentist will be administrative in nature. This means that the penalty could include any of the following actions:
- Restriction of practice;
- Remedial education;
- Administrative cost;
- Dental license suspension; or
- Dental license revocation.
In addition to the disciplinary actions above, the Florida Department of Health may use an alternative form of discipline, which could include mediation or citation.
File Complaint Against Dentist In Florida
Request Your Medical Records
The first step in filing your complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry is to get your medical records. To do so, you must send a certified letter to your dentist requesting your medical records, and make sure to get a hardcopy return receipt for your certified mail. That way, you will receive the signed hardcopy after the dentist signs for your medical records. Keep in mind, dentists are allowed to charge you a reasonable amount for copies of medical records, but this fee cannot exceed $1.00 per page for the first 25 pages and $0.25 for every page thereafter.
If your dentist does not hand over your medical records after 30 days, you can proceed with filing your complaint. You should include a copy of the letter you sent to the dentist requesting your medical records, as well as the green hardcopy return receipt as evidence that the dentist received your medical records request. Keep a copy of your medical records for yourself, and keep a copy everything you send and do. It may be valuable down the road.
File Your Administrative Complaint
The actual process of filing the complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry is fairly simple, and it’s inexpensive. You can file the complaint online, or you can file a paper copy of the administrative complaint. There is no filing fee for filing a complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry.
If you would rather file your complaint anonymously, you can. However, the Board must receive enough information to move forward. Otherwise, your complaint and the investigation will be closed.
What Happens After Filing The Administrative Complaint With The Florida Board Of Dentistry?
After you file your complaint with the Florida Board of Dentistry, this will trigger a review. Periodically, both you and the dentist you filed the complaint against will be notified regarding the status of the complaint. Keep in mind, if you change your address, you need to notify the Florida Department of Health because they communicate through mail. If you file your complaint anonymously, you may not receive any updates.
Issues The Florida Board Of Dentistry Will Not Investigate
The Florida Board of Dentistry lists several common reasons people file administrative complaints against dentists that the Board is not interested in investigating. These issues the Board is not investigating include the following:
- Fee disputes;
- Billing disputes for insurance;
- Personality conflicts; and
- Bedside manner or rudeness of practitioners.
Past Complaints Against Dentists In Florida
If you suspect your dentist may have engaged in dental malpractice, you do a little research and find out if that dentist has had complaints filed against him or her in the past. You can search a dentist’s past disciplinary record at the Florida Department of Health’s website. This is a great tool to find out more about who you are trusting your dental health with. Often times, dental malpractice clients tell us that they wish they had searched their dentist’s disciplinary record before they were injured. In many cases, they never would have been injured if they had done a simple search and found that the dentist had been disciplined by the Florida Board of Dentistry.