Serving the Profession of Dentistry

  • by Frank Conaway, DMD, MAGD
  • Apr 16, 2018, 08:00 AM
In my first blog post, I shared that I wear multiple hats as a dentist. Today, I’m wearing my board hat. The primary purpose of a state board of dental examiners is to protect the public from unscrupulous dentists and create rules of practice that dentists and hygienists must follow. We also issue dental licenses through an exam process.  Sitting on a dental board can bring a lot of emotions. It can make you feel important because you make decisions that impact people’s lives. It can make you feel nervous because you make decisions that really impact people’s lives, and they may be angry with your decision. It can be stressful because you make decisions that your colleagues may not appreciate. It is time consuming, and I don’t recommend it to anyone who is not willing to fully commit and make some sacrifices.  

Boards are not out to get anyone — we do not seek out dentists or hygienists who are doing bad things. We only look at cases that are reported by a patient, employee or colleague.  Most of the time, cases are investigated, reviewed and filed away. It’s pretty easy to stay out of trouble with the board. Have your continuing education and CPR certifications up to date, keep good records at your office and take care of your patients. If a provider is a repeat offender, we consider their history and take action to protect the patients. That action can be a warning, a fine or even loss of license — if it is serious enough.  

Hearings are not pleasant. Lawyers are involved and you need to take time away from the office. There can be uncomfortable and emotional testimony, and, sometimes, you may need to make the tough decision to revoke a license. Revoking a license is a rare occasion, but there are providers who only focus on making money and fail to put their patients’ best interests first. A dentist really has to make a lot of mistakes to get to that point.  

Our dental board sees a lot of applications for radiology permits where the applicant has an arrest record. It’s amazing and disappointing how many times I see lies on the application about criminal histories. What’s worse is when they come in for an interview, their explanation, almost 100 percent of the time, is that the problem was someone else’s fault. I don’t see the values and principles that existed when I was growing up.

Participating in a process where candidates are examined so they are able to obtain a license to practice dentistry is interesting. As part of the process, I have to take online and in-person tests at each exam site to calibrate and make sure each examiner is using the same guidelines. There is a lot of travel involved. There are very early mornings, late evenings, tight quarters, crowded airports, smelly cabs and way too much fast food. At the exam sites, we typically put in 10-hour days, and most of that time is on our feet. The candidates are easy to work with, and, most of the time, it’s smooth sailing. I do not have the responsibility of telling a candidate they failed, and I am fine with that. We work very hard at making the exam process fair for all and ensure that the patients are well taken care of. 

I was asked by one of my son’s friends why I do what I do. I told him I have an obligation to take care of the profession that takes care of me. It’s my way to give back. 

Last thing — my previous blog post was about my new dog, Dixie. Well, she is now in her terrible two's. She doesn’t listen when told to come, and house training has good and bad days. And there’s an attitude evolving! The two cats still don’t fully accept her. Bennie, the stately gentleman that he is, allows Dixie to chew on his ears way more than I am comfortable with. My wife can’t pass a chew toy in the store without buying it. I guess that’s a good thing since Dixie is in full-chew mode. Most of the time, we are smiling at Dixie’s antics, so life is good.
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