What is the Utah Dentist and Dental Hygienist Licensing Board?

Thank you to the Utah Dental Association and to Dr. Len Aste DDS for letting us post this article!


Before Dr. Alexander Neibaur, Utah’s first dentist, arrived in 1848, early pioneers relied on their ingenuity to meet their increasing needs for dental care. Many blacksmiths, tinsmiths and others with limited skills found themselves being pressed into services not necessarily of their choosing. Settlers in dental distress or pain often times endured the not-too-skilled services of something in the community, untrained, but possessed of sufficient practical skill to undertake the rendition of emergent relief.

In 1894 the Territorial Legislature enacted the first Dental Act. A Board of Examiners consisting of five dentists was formed, and 36 other practicing dentists were grandfathered in as licensed dentists. The first licensing exam involved oral surgery mechanical dentistry, physiology, anesthetics, anatomy, pathology and therapeutics.

The practice of dentistry and the way it is regulated under the Department of Commerce by the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) and the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Licensing Board, also known as the Utah Dental Advisory Board. The Board is an advisory Board with governmental oversight as proposed to an independent regulatory Board. This umbrella structure provides governmental immunity to Board members as long as their actions are no arbitrary and capricious.

The Board consists of six licensed dentists, two hygienists and one member of the general public. Board appointments are made by the Department of Commerce’s executive director who give consideration to recommendations by members of the dental profession and its organization. The names of potential candidates are submitted to the Governor for confirmation or rejection. Board members serve a four-year term and may be reappointed to a subsequent term.

The following duties, functions, and responsibilities performed by the Board in collaboration with DOPL include, but are not limited to:

Recommending approximate rules.

  1. Approving and establishing licensing qualifications and passing scores for applicant examinations.

  2. Screening applicants and recommending conditions for licensing, renewal, reinstatement, and re-licensure actions to the director.

  3. Recommend to the appropriate legislative committee whether the Board supports a change to the licensing act.

  4. Establish standards of supervision for students at dental and hygiene schools seeking to obtain a license.

  5. Serve as examiners for licensing examinations.

  6. Monitor probationers for compliance with their Stipulation and Orders.

  7. Assist DOPL in reviewing complaints concerning the unlawful or unprofessional conduct of a license.

Not all complaints or reports of unlawful or unprofessional conduct are reviewed by the Board. DOPL receives a variety or complaints from many sources. Complaints are confidential and are not generally available to the public. Each complaint is reviewed by a DOPL investigator who makes one of three initial determinations:

  1. No violation of licensing laws.

  2. Alleged violation does not meet DOPL’s criteria for investigation

  3. Alleged violation does meet DOPL’s criteria for investigation

If no violation occurred, the complaint is closed, and no action is taken.

Violations that do not meeting the criteria for investigation may results in the individual involved participating in an informal educational interview with the Board to obtain and provide information about the situation. It may also result in a letter of concern to the individual informing them of the reported allegation, of DOPL’s concerns regarding the allegations, and of the applicable regulations. All occurring without imposing a disciplinary sanction on the individual’s license.

Violations that do meet the criteria for investigation are prioritized and assigned to an investigation. The case may be reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office and experts in the profession. DOPL may also determine if a criminal complaint is warranted and will then notify the appropriate authorities. Such cases are usually resolved in one of two ways. 1. Informally; 2- Formally

INFORMAL violations are resolved in one of three ways:

  1. Administrative Citations: A citation is the imposition of a cease and desist order in response to the unlawful or unprofessional conduct. Examples of citable offenses are practicing without a license, exceeding the scope of a license and hiring someone who is requires to be licensed that is unlicensed.

  2. Stipulated Agreement: A stipulated agreement is a written settlement accepted by all applicable parties with regard to the involved individual’s license. It may also result in the voluntary surrender of an individual’s license.

  3. Informal Adjudicated Proceedings: Is a case that is initiated by notice of agency action and decided or resolved by a file review as opposed to a hearing.

FORMAL violations are resolved in one of two ways:

  1. Stipulation Agreements: Same as informal stipulated agreements.

  2. Formal Adjudicative Proceedings: Is a proceeding initiated by a notice of agency action with a Petition and decided or resolved through a formal administrative hearing. This is similar in some ways to a civil court. Each party may present evidence in response to the case. An administrative law judge rules on all evidence, procedures and legal issues. DOPL is represented by an Assistant Attorney General and the involved individual may be represented by personal legal counsel. At the conclusion of the hearing, the dental Board considers the evidence and makes a recommendation regarding the status of the individual’s license. The recommendation is submitted to the director of DOPL who may accept the entire recommendation or may issue a modified supplemental order.

Recent items that have been brought before the Board for consideration are:

  • Tele-dentistry

  • Advertising

  • Anesthetic and Sedation Rules Update

  • Administration of Botulinum Toxin and Dermal Fillers by dentists.

Dental Board meetings are held quarterly at the Heber M. Wells building in Salt Lake City and are recorded and open access to the public. Recordings and minutes of paste meetings can be accessed through DOPL’s website.