It takes a lot of work and schooling to become a dentist.
On some level, this makes sense. After all, professional dentists deal with patients' sensitive mouth and teeth issues—which requires a high level of trust between patient and dentist. It follows that, as a whole, the community of practicing dentists places a very high value on professional behavior, deep knowledge, and practical application of finely-honed skills.
To achieve that high level of competency, you need to go through your education successfully. To demonstrate that you have the capacity for care and empathy required of dental practitioners, your record needs to be spotless.
It's this second requirement that comes as a surprise to many future dentists. When prospective dentists begin to prepare for the NBDE, or the National Board Dental Examination, they naturally begin to study biochemistry, dental anatomy, and operative dentistry. They might not think to check whether the NBDE has ethical requirements. They might not realize that past or current misconduct might disqualify them from even sitting their exams.
Don't let this happen to you. Sitting for your boards is crucial for your career as a successful dentist. If there's any misconduct on your record, if there are any allegations of misconduct in your future, the time to deal with that issue is now. Hire an empathetic, experienced student defense attorney to assist with your strategic course to success today.
What Is the NBDE?
The National Board Dental Examination is the board examination that dental students in the United States need to take prior to licensure and initiation of their practice. In some cases, dental students who plan to pursue postgraduate degrees for specialist certification need to take the NBDE prior to applying to those programs.
The NBDE currently consists of two examinations, the NBDE I and the NBDE II. The first part covers basic sciences, from microbiology to physiology and human anatomy; the second is more clinical, longer (e.g., a two-day examination), and focuses on more niche dental topics, from oral diagnoses to periodontics, pharmacology, patient management, and maxillofacial surgery.
Candidates who take the NBDE receive a pass or fail as a result. A pass allows a student to pursue licensure and next steps towards becoming a professional dentist. A fail necessitates a second attempt before a student continues on in their professional goals.
According to the American Dental Association, the National Board Examination has the sole purpose of helping the board determine the level of qualification of each student who seeks to practice dental hygiene or dentistry. As such, the exam poses questions that require knowledge of dental and clinical sciences and practices. However, the board also has a chance to assess the fitness of each candidate outside of the exam in order to determine whether that candidate is likely to succeed as an ethical and professional practitioner.
As such, if you know that you have any misconduct in your permanent record, you need to take care of it. Any type of disciplinary records that you may have will constitute a red flag to the board committee and could interfere with your ability to take the exam.
What Are The Requirements for Taking the NBDE?
The Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations, or the JCNDE, has released a guide for students who plan to take the NBDE. This guide details the eligibility requirements, the expected code of conduct, and the ethical policies governing the test-taking process.
Of note: The JCNDE is in the process of discontinuing the current NBDE I and II formats. By 2022, the two exams will effectively mesh into one updated exam, the INBDE (or the Integrated National Board Dental Examination). The regulations guiding expectations for misconduct will likely remain the same.
The JCNDE's test guide includes an ‘ethical conduct section' that begins by highlighting its rationale for paying attention to candidates' records of conduct. It states that “Oral health care professionals play an important role in society by providing services that contribute to the health and well-being of individuals and their communities. In light of this responsibility, oral health care professionals must behave ethically at all times.”
According to the JCNDE's guidelines, this expectation of ethicality begins when a student first applies to a dental program and doesn't end until the completion of a dentist's professional practice. Dentists follow the guidelines stated in the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct throughout their practice. It stands to reason that the committee governing the gateway to that field wants to see some kind of proof that a candidate will likely be able to follow those same ethical principles if a candidate successfully continues on to be a dentist.
The Ethical Expectations of Prospective Dental Practitioners
The JCNDE's NBDE guide for exam candidates notes that “the ethical standards of the profession include a commitment to honesty, truthfulness, full disclosure, accuracy, fairness, and integrity in completing the examination application, in the examination process itself, and in applying for licensure.”
As such, the guide notes that any misconduct surrounding the exam process itself (e.g., cheating or misrepresentation of registration information) could constitute immediate grounds for disqualification or voiding of exam results.
However, it isn't just exam-related misconduct that could stand to complicate your licensure goals. The testing committee looks for a strong history of ethical behavior. If we take the ADA's ethical principles as a broad guideline for expected conduct, we find that the expectations for candidates' past and future conduct might include:
- Respect and Constant Support of Patient Autonomy
- Dental Ethics
These general principles of dental professional conduct translate into specific expectations regarding the keeping of patient records, a commitment to ongoing education, the necessity of managing finances correctly, and a whole host of other stringent best practices.
If the dental examination board finds out that you have any type of misconduct on your record - academic, sexual, or other - then they may wonder if you're prepared to uphold best practices for the duration of your practice. Instead of allowing that level of scrutiny on your application, it's time to make sure that there are zero red flags in your past. By teaming up with a professional student defense attorney, you'll be able to register for the NBDE with complete confidence - which will allow you to concentrate on the subject matter instead of your past.
Navigating Your School's Due Process: A Helpful Guide for Success
Your school's policies and procedures for investigating and adjudicating matters of misconduct will depend on your specific school's documentation. It's a good idea to go through your code of conduct or student handbook, documents that should be available on your school's website, in order to understand the processes that may lie before you.
Once you become aware that misconduct allegations may be in your future, it's time to jump into action. Even before your school sends you formal documentation about meetings or disciplinary action, you can already begin to present yourself in the best possible light by:
- Refraining from speaking to anyone other than your attorney-advisor regarding your misconduct allegations. Even though your first impulse might be to reach out to another person to apologize or seek comfort, you need to be aware that your school might use anything you say against you. It's a much better idea to keep all information secure.
- Put together a timeline of relevant events, and gather all information possible. When you first start to work with your attorney, they'll ask you for as much information as you can gather regarding your alleged misconduct. The more information you can give them, the better. This will help your attorney build a good strategy for you as you start to build your defense.
While every school's disciplinary processes differ a little, there are a few different events that will be common to every institution's procedure. If you suspect that you'll be managing misconduct allegations, you can likely expect some or all of the following events:
- Some type of notification from your school regarding your allegations. Your school should send you a document that lists out the formal allegations against you, the details regarding your alleged actions, and information about the investigative and adjudicative processes that lie before you.
- A meeting with representatives from your school. This could consist of a one-on-one meeting with a teacher or mentor, or a larger, more formal panel in front of a committee of officials from your school. (Your school could also offer you both options in series.) Regardless of the specific setting, remember the advice we mentioned above: Refrain from confiding in anyone from your school. Make sure that your attorney comes with you to these meetings, particularly if you're invited to tell your side of the story at a formal disciplinary hearing. That might be the best chance you have to influence your school's decision about your involvement in the alleged misconduct.
- A decision from your school, and resultant disciplinary action. At the end of your disciplinary hearing (or after your school's investigation), representatives from your school will come to a decision regarding your guilt. If applicable, they will also make a recommendation for penalties in your case. Your school's disciplinary measures will be in your code of conduct; typical penalties include probation, suspension, expulsion, community service, reductions in privileges, and even changes in your housing or academic plans.
- A chance for you to appeal. If you do not agree with your school's disciplinary decision, you will likely have a chance to ask your school to reconsider. Speak with your advisor before you do so, as you'll likely only have one chance to appeal before your school finalizes your case.
It's important to realize that, as stark as punitive measures like probation and suspension sound, the long-ranging impacts of your misconduct are the real issues at stake. Your reputation as a young dental student is your greatest asset. If your future partners, clients, patients, or employers learn about your past misconduct, that could make your future professional life much more difficult than it needs to be.
Don't let that happen to you. Protect your prospective dentistry career today by taking the time to deal with misconduct in a smart, strategic way now.
Call Joseph D. Lento Today to Take Action For Your Future
When you've invested heavily in all of the training, education, and time that it takes to become a prospective dentist, it can feel like you're at the finish line. Everything that you've wanted is just before you. Soon, you'll have a thriving career, a healthy income, and you'll be able to practice the profession you've been working towards all this time.
There's just one last hurdle to jump over, and it's your board examinations.
These life-altering tests can be brutal enough. Preparing for your boards is challenging, and the stakes are high. You need the results of the board examination for dentists to be able to be licensed to work; ergo, you need to take the board examination.
If anything stands in the way of your ability to take your boards, that can be absolutely devastating—and costly.
If you're aware of anything that might disqualify you from sitting your boards, now's the time to do something about it. Past misconduct might not seem like a big deal when it happens, but if it disrupts your professional plans, it quickly wreaks havoc on your future.
Fortunately, even if you do have misconduct on your record, there's something you can do about it. By partnering with a professional, dedicated student defense lawyer, you can work to keep your record clear and get through your school's disciplinary process without long-lasting punishments.
Sound good? At the Lento Law Firm, we're excited about what we can do for you to keep your future bright. Joseph D. Lento has helped students across the nation with aggressive defenses and strategic work towards success.
Reach out to Joseph D. Lento at the Lento Law Firm today for more information about how we can help you. Call us today at 888-535-3686.