Continuing Education of Dental Staff members – Their responsibility but Your’s (i.e., the Dentist’s) Too

Several dentists have told us recently that dental staff members are solely responsible for fulfilling their biennial continuing education requirements before their next license renewal. That’s true but it’s also the responsibility of the dentist who employs such staff. Consider the following:

• Continuing Education requirements must be fulfilled before renewing a dental license and licensees sign their applications under penalties of perjury: The Massachusetts website for continuing education for dentistry (https://www.mass.gov/service-details/continuing-education-for-dentistry) states that “[d]entists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants must renew their licenses every 2 years. Before renewing your license, you must complete a certain number of continuing education units, or CEUs” (e.g., 12 CEUs for dental assistances each 2-year renewal cycle ended October 31). With respect to dental assistants, for example, the applicable Massachusetts statute states that “[a]ll registration applications and training notifications submitted to the board . . . shall be signed under the penalties of perjury by the person certifying the information contained therein. The board shall investigate all complaints relating to the practice of dental assistants.” (General Law – Part I, Title XVI, Chapter 112, Section 511/2).
 Practical Implication: Dental assistants and dental hygienists who have not satisfied their CEU requirements for licensure could be suspended and not able to work, which would leave you shorthanded at a time when it is already hard to find and retain good staff members.
• The State Board of Dentistry can penalize (and has penalized) dentists for employing unlicensed staff members. You may recall that, since the end of 2019, all dental assistant applicants seeking to become licensed in Massachusetts must take and pass the board’s ethics and jurisprudence exam. That requirement stems from the board’s surprise by the lack of understanding of some dental assistants as to what is required of them post-licensure, e.g., CEU requirements, license expiration dates, etc. In its November 6, 2019 Meeting, Barbara A. Young (a board member at that time) noted the prevalence of this issue as well as the liability for dentists when she stated that “more than 200 complaints have been opened against dental assistants and their employers for unlicensed practice and/or failing to complete the required 12 CEUs . . .”
 Practical Implications: Failure of a dental staff member to fulfill his or her licensure renewal requirements could subject you to fines, loss of license and other potential legal consequences.
• Professional Liability Insurance will not cover a dentist for claims based on the employment of unlicensed staff members. Professional Liability Insurance covers “malpractice” but board action against a dentist or staff member for failure to follow licensing and other requirements is not considered a malpractice claim.
 Practical Implications: Uncovered financial exposure for you and your practice.

Given all of these risks to you and your practice, you should adopt an office policy that requires dental staff members to maintain and produce (preferably once a year) proof of CEUs obtained and that makes clear that dental staff members who fail to meet their license requirements on time will not be permitted to work until such time as they have come into compliance. If you’re concerned about the time and effort it would take to monitor CEUs and licensure renewal deadlines for your staff, feel free to give us a call. Our new Compliance Portal may be just the solution you’re looking for.

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