Consumer Complaint Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who should file a complaint?
    A complaint should be filed by anyone who believes that a dentist or dental assistant licensed by the Board has engaged in illegal activities that are related to the licensee’s professional responsibilities.

    In addition, if you have evidence that an unlicensed person is practicing dentistry, you should report this activity to the Board.
  • Can the Board act on any type of complaint?
    The Board is unable to act on complaints of illegal activity that are not in violation of the Dental Practice Act. The Board does not have jurisdiction over matters outside the purview of the Dental Practice Act. These matters include:
    • General (administrative) office procedures of the dental office.
    • Fee and billing disputes.
    • Insurance coverage disputes.
    • Reimbursements or financial compensation.
    • Rude behavior by dentists and dental staff.
    Complaints involving allegations outside the jurisdiction of the Board may be referred to other agencies or organizations that may be better able to assist the complainant.

    Allegations of activity in violation of the Dental Practice commonly include:
    • Gross negligence or incompetence (violations of quality of care).
    • Substance use during the practice of dentistry.
    • Improper advertising.
    • Fraud.
    • Unsanitary conditions.
    • False or fictitious name use.
    The Board may be able to act on other types of complaints as well.
  • How are complaints processed?
    Within 10 business days of receipt of the complaint, you will be notified in writing that your complaint was received. A Consumer Services Analyst (CSA) will then determine whether the allegations fall under the Board's jurisdiction. If they do, the CSA will request your records and any information necessary to review the complaint. The CSA will request records from the dentist who is the subject of your complaint and from any dentists who provided you with treatment for the same issue, so include contact information for these dentists in your complaint. 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.

    If no violation can be substantiated, the case is closed, and you will be notified. A Board investigator will be assigned to the case if there is sufficient evidence that the dentist has violated the Dental Practice Act and that the violation warrants formal disciplinary action. The case may then be resolved by informal or formal proceedings. If a case involves unlicensed or criminal activity, it is referred to the local district attorney for prosecution.

    To ensure that the success of the investigation is not jeopardized, all information about the investigation remains confidential and is not public record. It may not be discussed. However, if disciplinary or criminal action is taken, some information may become a matter of public record. In addition, if disciplinary or criminal action is taken, you may be called to testify as a witness.

    The entire complaint review, investigation, and legal review process may take an extended amount of time, depending on the complexity of the case. When a case is resolved, you will be notified of the action taken by the Board (except in the case of anonymous complaints). Please keep in mind that any action taken by the Board has no impact on the civil remedies that may be available to you. If you have questions about filing a complaint, please call (916) 263-2300 or email
  • My dentist's office is dirty. What should I do?
    You should file a complaint. The Board will review the complaint and may conduct an inspection of the office for violations of the Dental Practice Act.
  • What should I do after I file a complaint?
    Do not wait for the outcome of your complaint to continue necessary treatment. If you need dental treatment, we suggest you seek it from another provider.
  • 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 filed accusations on our website at
  • Is this dentist licensed? What else can you tell me about them?
    To look up the status of a California licensed dentist, use the DCA License Search page. You can verify whether the dentist is licensed and has had disciplinary actions filed against them; the license number, issue date, and expiration date; additional licenses held by the dentist; and current address of record.
  • What if I want my money back?
    Refunds or monetary compensation are beyond the authority of the Board. You may wish to consult a private attorney, file in small claims court, and contact the Better Business Bureau.
  • Do you have lawyers to assist me?
    No, you will need to consult with your own private legal counsel.
  • My dentist was very unpleasant and had a bad attitude. Can I file a complaint against them for that?
    Yes, but note 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 Board staff will review it to determine if it is within the jurisdiction of the Board.
  • Once my complaint is filed, what are the possible outcomes?
    Cases may be closed as non-jurisdictional, due to insufficient evidence, or because no violation of the Dental Practice Act is found. Cases that warrant investigation may result in disciplinary action taken by the Board.
  • What other recourse do I have when I feel I have been wronged by my dentist?
    You may file a complaint with your insurance company. You may also consult an attorney or pursue the matter through the court system.
  • I think my dentist may be abusing drugs or alcohol. What should I do about this?
    Report this activity in writing. Contact the Board immediately.
  • My dentist has physically abused me. Who should I call?
    Contact your local law enforcement agency (the police) immediately. You should also file a complaint with 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. As a patient, you also have the right to refuse any dental treatment proposed by the dentist.
  • How can I get a copy of my dental records?
    You must request the records from your dentist—a written request is recommended. Under Health and Safety Code section 123100, the dentist is required to provide you with a copy of the records. There may be a cost for duplication.
  • Can I withdraw a complaint?
    Requests to withdraw complaints must be in writing. Board staff will accept either an email or a letter. Pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 143.5, dentists may not require a consumer to withdraw their complaint with the Board as part of any settlement agreement.