January 18, 2022

Board Complaints: What Dentists Need to Know – Part I

By Derek Funk

Dental board complaints can be terrifying. Receiving notice that you are under investigation can be the worst day of your professional life. If you receive a complaint, you might immediately have a number of questions, like how do I respond? Do I need an attorney? If I hire an attorney, will my insurance company pay for it?  What can the Dental Board do to me? These are all understandable questions and, although the answer will depend on a number of factors, hopefully this post will shed some light on these questions.  If you have additional questions about your specific situation, you should contact a licensed attorney immediately.

What Does The Dental Board Investigate?

Under A.R.S. § 32-1263.02, the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners (“Board”) may investigate any conduct that could lead to disciplinary action.  This usually starts as a complaint the Board receives from a patient or other third party.  The Board even has a form on its website that allows anyone to submit a complaint against a dentist online.  Any time Dental Board complaints are filed, there is an automatic investigation.  The Board conducts the investigation to determine whether there are grounds for disciplinary action.  This usually takes the form of behavior that the Board considers to be “unprofessional conduct.” A.R.S. § 32-1201.01 defines  unprofessional conduct and includes the following:

  • Violating a patient’s right to confidence;
  • Abusing Drugs or alcohol;
  • Committing gross malpractice or repeated malpractice;
  • Making a knowingly false or fraudulent statement in connection with the practice of dentistry;
  • Billing irregularities; and
  • Inadequate recordkeeping.

Note that if the Dental Board’s investigation reveals any unprofessional conduct, it can take action against your license.  This is true, even if the unprofessional conduct is unrelated to the actual board complaint.  Therefore, if a patient files a complaint against you alleging gross malpractice, but the Board instead finds that you have failed to maintain adequate records, you can still face discipline.

Our next post in this series looks at how to respond to a Dental Board complaint.


This post is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with a licensed attorney. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law, but does not provide specific legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by the posting of this information.  If you have specific legal questions after reading this post, you should contact a licensed attorney.