Welcome to the Dental Board of California

Consumers' Frequently Asked Questions

The following information is intended to inform consumers of the procedures for filing a complaint against individuals licensed by the Dental Board of California (Board). Board licensees are those who practice in the following license categories:

  • Dentist (DDS)
  • Registered Dental Assistant (RDA)
  • Registered Dental Assistant in Extended Functions (RDAEF)

If you need information, or have a problem with a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), contact the Department of Managed Health Care at 1-800-400-0815, or www.hmohelp.ca.gov.

Who Can/Should File a Complaint?
A complaint should be filed by anyone who believes that a licensee of the Board has engaged in illegal activities which are related to his/her professional responsibilities. This includes substandard dental care rendered by any of the license categories mentioned above.
Note: Please refer to the Dental Practice Act, Business and Professions Code, Section 1680 at the following link: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov to view definitions of unprofessional conduct.
In addition, if you have evidence which indicates that an unlicensed person is participating in activities for which a license is required, you should report such activity to the Board.
Complaints involving allegations which are not within the jurisdiction of this Board may be referred to other agencies or organizations which may be better able to assist the complainant. Complaints not within the authority of the Board concern: fee/billing disputes, general business practices, and personality conflicts.

How Do I File a Complaint?
Complaint forms can be found at the following link: http://www.dbc.ca.gov/consumers/complaint_info.shtml. To expedite proper handling of your complaint, please complete a complaint form and mail it to the Board. This form cannot be submitted on-line. If you cannot print the form, please call the Board to have a form mailed to you.
The information contained in your complaint will determine what action the Board will take. Please provide a statement which describes the nature of your complaint. Include as many specific details as possible as well as any documentary evidence related to your complaint. This may include photographs, invoices and correspondence.
While anonymous complaints will be reviewed, they may be impossible to pursue without support from the complainant.

How Are Complaints Processed?
Within 10 business days of receipt, the Board will notify you in writing that we have received your complaint. The memo will indicate acknowledgement, the name and telephone number of the Consumer Services Analyst (CSA) assigned to your case and a case number The CSA will then determine whether the accusations fall under the Board's jurisdiction. If they do, the CSA will request your records and any information necessary to review the complaint from the subject dentist and any applicable subtreater(s). After receipt of the records, the case will be forwarded to an independent dental consultant for determination of possible violations of the Dental Practice Act. (See Business and Professions Code, Section 1680)
Complaints containing allegations that would warrant disciplinary action (e.g., sexual abuse, negligence, incompetence, etc.), are immediately referred to an investigator. An investigator is a trained peace officer employed by the Board.
If it has been determined that a complaint must be formally investigated, the complainant is advised and can expect to be interviewed by the investigator assigned to the case. This interview will provide the complainant an opportunity to fully discuss the details of the complaint, answer the investigator's questions, and ask any questions regarding the overall process. The investigator may also interview the subject (licensee) of the complaint who will be advised of the nature of the complaint. To ensure that the success of the investigation is not jeopardized in any way, the details of the investigation remain confidential and are not public record.
Once the investigation is completed and the allegations are confirmed, the case may be submitted to the Office of the Attorney General for formal administrative disciplinary action. In signing the Accusation, the Board's Executive Officer becomes the complainant. Once the Accusation is filed, it becomes a public document. The licensee may request a hearing to contest the charges. At the hearing, the Board must demonstrate "by clear and convincing evidence to a reasonable certainty" that the allegations are true. For that reason, it may be necessary for the person who made the original complaint to testify.
In many cases, defense counsel and the Deputy Attorney General representing the Board may engage in discussions of proposals for stipulated settlements prior to the hearing. Stipulated settlements generally include admission to one or more of the violations alleged and a proposal for appropriate discipline. The Board encourages negotiated settlements because they eliminate the need for costly administrative hearings. To this end, the Board has adopted Disciplinary Guidelines which are designed to set forth the Board's penalty standards. (A copy may be obtained upon written request.)
When a case does go to hearing, the hearing is presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). After the hearing is completed, the ALJ will issue a "Proposed Decision" stating the findings (facts that were proven in the hearing) and offer a recommendation for resolution (i.e., dismissal, revocation, probation). The ALJ utilizes the Board's Disciplinary Guidelines in formulating a recommendation. The proposed decision is distributed to the Board members for a vote. If the Board votes to non-adopt the proposed decision, the hearing transcript is then circulated among Board members, along with written arguments from the defense counsel and the Board's counsel, and the Board issues its own Final Decision. Final Decisions are a matter of public record and are available upon written request.

My dentist's office is filthy and disgusting. What should I do?
Fill out a complaint form and send to the Board for review and possible inspection.

Should Unlicensed Practice be Reported to the Board?
If you have evidence which indicates that an unlicensed person is participating in activities for which a license is required, you should definitely report such activity to the Board. However, you should be aware that as a licensing agency the Board only has jurisdiction to take disciplinary action against its licensees. In certain circumstances, however, the Board will investigate allegations of unlicensed practice, and, if sufficient evidence is found, will forward this information to the local District Attorney's Office for criminal prosecution.
Applicants for licensure, interns and trainees may also be engaged in unlicensed practice. In those cases, the Board will investigate and pursue appropriate administrative action.
If you have further questions regarding the complaint process, please write or call the Board.

I filed a complaint months ago and have not heard anything yet. Why?
A CSA reviews all complaints received by the Board. The review may take an extended length of time (up to six (6) months depending on the complexity and type of review necessary to address the allegation(s).)

What should I do after I file a complaint?
Do not wait for the outcome of your complaint to continue necessary treatment. If you are in need of dental treatment, we suggest you seek dental treatment from another provider. The Board takes several months to process complaints and we do not want you to jeopardize your health.

Can you tell me if a Dentist has any Complaints filed Against their License?
Complaints are confidential and are not public record unless an accusation is filed. You can view accusations filed on our website at the following link http://www.dbc.ca.gov/consumers/hotsheets.shtml

Is this Dentist licensed? What else can you tell me about him/her?
On the Board's web site, you can look up the status of a California licensed dentist at the following link: http://www.dbc.ca.gov/verification/index.shtml
On the Board's Web site, you can verify if the dentist is licensed, the license number, issue date, expiration date; additional licenses held by thedentist; current address of record and also if there have been any disciplinary actions filed.

What if I want my money back?
Refunds or any types of monetary compensation are beyond the authority of the Board. You may wish to consult a private attorney, file in small claims court, contact the Better Business Bureau, or if your dentist is a member, contact the California Dental Association, at www.cda.org to request a peer review.

Do you have lawyers to assist me?
No, You will need to locate and consult with your own private legal counsel.

My dentist was very unpleasant. He/she had a bad attitude. Can I file a complaint against him/her for that?
Yes, but please be advised that the Board has no jurisdiction over personality conflicts. The Board may close your case without any action taken. However, you are welcome to file the complaint and the Board will review it to determine if it has jurisdiction to act on the complaint.

Once my complaint is filed, what are the possible outcomes?
Cases are closed as non-jurisdictional, no negligence, possible simple negligence, or referred to the Enforcement Unit for further investigation.

I have left many messages for the person handling my case. No one calls me back. Why?
A CSA may be handling numerous cases simultaneously. Phone calls are returned in order received. Please leave one message and reference your case number. If an analyst does not return your call within a few business days, please send us an email at dentalboard@dca.ca.gov, or fax to (916) 263-2140. Include your complete name, case number and issue.

Why was my case dismissed/closed?
Cases are closed if they do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Board; insufficient evidence was substantiated; or, if the allegations if proven true would only constitute simple negligence which is not a violation of the Dental Practice Act.

What other avenues of recourse do I have when I feel I have been wronged by my dentist?
You may file a complaint with your insurance company, the California Dental Association at www.cda.org, or consult an attorney and/or pursue the matter through the court system.

I think my dentist may be abusing drugs/alcohol. What should I do about this?
Please report this activity in writing and contact the Board immediately.

My dentist has physically abused me. Who should I call?
You should immediately contact your local law enforcement agency (police) and the Enforcement Unit of the Board.

If I refuse x-rays, can my dentist refuse to provide me treatment?
YES. Your dentist may feel that x-rays are necessary to make a proper diagnosis or treatment plan. Treatment without the necessary radiographs is considered negligence. A patient also has a right to refuse any dental treatment proposed by the dentist.