Have concerns about a dentist?
Where do I make a complaint?
Your written complaint may be sent to:
College of Dental Surgeons of Alberta
Attention: Complaints Director
402 – 7609 109 ST NW
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 1C3
c/o Complaints Director
Ensure a signed letter of complaint is attached
How does the complaint process work?
When a complaint is received, the Professional Conduct Department may:
Each complaint will be assessed on an individual basis. Within 30 days after your complaint is received at the offices of the CDSA, you will be notified of the initial action taken. The dentist will be notified about your complaint and will receive a copy of the complaint.
- attempt to resolve your complaint between you and the dentist
- encourage you and your dentist to resolve the complaint directly
- commence an investigation into your complaint or
- dismiss your complaint
If I make a complaint, what is my role?
The individual who makes a complaint, called a complainant, is expected to pick up their mail and respond to requests from the Professional Conduct Department or an investigator. The complaints process and the outcomes are directed by the Complaints Director and investigators. While the complainant may have strong feelings about the outcome of their complaint, the complainant does not direct the complaint process or an investigation.
What is the scope of the investigation?
An investigation may not be limited to the information presented in the letter of complaint.
What happens if a complaint is investigated?
You will be notified in writing that an investigation has started and will be given the name of the investigator. The investigator will request information from people involved with your complaint. The dentist complained about will be provided with a copy of your complaint and will be asked to provide a response to your complaint in writing, a copy of your clinical record and dental health information.Other people you have noted in your complaint or who are identified in the investigation may also be asked for information about your complaint including a copy of your clinical record and dental health information. You will be notified in writing of the results of the investigation when it is completed.
What is the purpose of an investigation?
A primary purpose of an investigation is to assess the quality of care and treatment delivered by a dentist to determine if it is unprofessional.
What if I don't pick up my mail or respond to the CDSA?
After you make a complaint, additional information may be required from you. If you do not respond to requests form the CDSA, your complaint may be dismissed. Confidential and private information about you or the dentist concerning the complaint will be sent to you by registered mail. If you do not pick up your registered mail, the Complaints Director may stop the investigation and dismiss your complaint.
How long does an investigation take?
It depends on the nature of a complaint. Please contact the CDSA for further information.
Is the complaint process confidential?
In the complaint process, the people who may have access to your complaint is you, the Complaints Director, any dentist you name in the complaint or who is identified during an investigation, and another person who may have information relating to your complaint, who is identified by the Complaints Director or investigators. If the complaint is referred to a hearing, the hearing is open to the public.
What are the possible outcomes of the complaint process?
Your complaint may be resolved, dismissed if the evidence does not indicate that further action should be taken or referred to a formal hearing and you may be asked to be a witness at the hearing.
Pursuant to section 68(1) of the Health Professions Act, complainants whose complaint is dismissed without a hearing have the right to request a review of this decision by the Professional Conduct Review Committee. The application fee for this review is $200.
The ADA&C has established a policy under which complainants who are concerned that they are unable to pay the $200 application fee due to their financial circumstances may apply for a waiver of the application fee.
If a Complainant wishes to request a review by the Professional Conduct Review Committee, he or she must make a request in writing clearly indicating that he or she is requesting a review and must provide reasons for the review. The request for review must include the $200 non-refundable application fee or the completed Application for Fee Waiver and Statement of Finances and must be received by the CDSA within 30 days of receipt of the Complaints Director’s letter dismissing the complaint.
More information on the process and criteria to qualify for waiver of the fee may can be obtained by clicking here. Complainants seeking more information about how to seek a waiver can contact the Hearings Director of the CDSA.
Will my personal information be protected in a hearing?
One possible outcome of making a complaint is that the dentist you have been complained about will be referred to a hearing. The purpose of the hearing will be to determine if the dentist is guilty of unprofessional conduct. A panel of three dentists and a member of the public will hear the entire complaint and all of the evidence presented at the hearing to determine if the dentist is or is not guilty of unprofessional conduct. The four person panel is called a hearing tribunal.
As part of a hearing, a complainant may be asked to be a witness at the hearing for the CDSA. All witnesses are required to attend the hearing and tell their story under oath, which is a promise that all statements are true and accurate. All witnesses will be required to swear certain facts about who they are and why they made a complaint. A witness may also be subject to cross-examination by the dentist’s lawyer or the dentist.At the end of a hearing, the hearing tribunal will prepare a written decision. If a dentist is found guilty of unprofessional conduct by a hearing tribunal, a summary of the hearing tribunal’s decision, including the dentist’s name, will be published. This publication is required by Bylaw 20(7) of the Bylaws of the ADA&C. The decision of the hearing tribunal may reference your name. If you would prefer your name not be referenced in the decision, please let us know. In the publication of a summary of a decision, your name will be reduced to initials or a number to protect your personal information.
How the process works
I've received a complaint. What do I do?
We understand the challenges and obstacles of addressing patient complaints. Before a patient complains to the CDSA, we encourage open communication between the dentist and patient with the goal of addressing the patient’s concerns and preventing a complaint.
It is not always possible to address a patient’s concerns at the dental practice. If a patient complains to the CDSA, we encourage the patient and dentist to consider resolving the complaint. The Health Professions Act promotes resolution of complaints. The CDSA does not view resolution of a complaint as an admission of guilt. Resolution of a complaint can happen at any stage of the complaint process but it is common for resolution to occur at the beginning, shortly after a complaint is received by the Complaints Director.
Resolution can take many forms. If it is possible, the dentist and patient can discuss the complaint directly and try to reach a satisfactory resolution of it. At times, the dentist and patient relationship may have broken down to the point that neither dentist nor patient would like to communicate directly with each other. If this happens, the Complaints Director can assist you with communicating with the patient to determine if a resolution is possible. Some of this communication may occur in person, over the telephone or in letters.
Resolution is a voluntary process and cannot be forced upon the dentist or the person making the complaint. Both persons must be willing to accept that resolution, while not an ideal outcome, is a better outcome than an investigation or going through the process which can be long and time consuming. There is more than one way to resolve a complaint and you can discuss options with the Complaints Director. If a complaint is resolved, the complaint file is closed.
There is also a different and separate process under the Health Professions Act called Alternative Complaint Resolution.
What happens when the CDSA receives a complaint about me?
When a complaint is received by the Complaints Director, under the Health Professions Act of Alberta they may:
• Attempt to resolve your complaint, with the consent of you and the complainant;
• Encourage you and the complainant to resolve your complaint;
• Commence an investigation into the complaint;
• Dismiss the complaint;
• Refer the complaint to the Alternative Complaints Resolution (ACR) process.
Both the patient and dentist must voluntarily participate in the resolution process and each must agree to the outcome.
What happens in an investigation?
The purpose of an investigation is to look at whether or not a dentist has met the standards of practice in Alberta, complied with the Code of Ethics and otherwise conducted himself or herself in a manner that is expected under the Health Professions Act (HPA). This involves ultimately determining whether or not there is sufficient evidence of unprofessional conduct on the part of the dentist. Unprofessional conduct is defined in the HPA. Please refer to Section 1 (pp) (i) for the definition of unprofessional conduct in the Health Professions Act.
An investigation may involve personal interviews, a practice visit from a dentist, telephone interviews or the exchange of information by letter. Your initial response to a complaint must be in writing and a copy of it will be provided to the person who has made the complaint.
In the investigation stage, the CDSA does not provide copies of clinical records to a patient who has made a complaint. If a patient makes a request for their healthcare information to you as permitted by the Health Information Act, you must comply with the Health Information Act.
How long does an investigation take?
It depends. An investigation may take six to eight months but complicated cases can take considerably longer.
Do I need a lawyer to represent me during this process?
As a member of the CDSA and under the Health Professions Act of Alberta, you have an obligation to communicate directly with the Complaints Director and the Complaints Director can communicate directly with you.
If you wish to include a lawyer in this process, it is your own decision and at your own expense. The goal of the complaint resolution process at the CDSA is to provide an impartial process in which to resolve issues. The complaints process is designed to open the lines of communication to help find solutions.
You may wish to notify your malpractice insurance carrier that a complaint has been filed.
Is the complaint process confidential?
The process is confidential to a certain extent. At the start of an investigation, the only parties who have access to your complaint are you, the Complaints Director and the person who has made the complaint. As the investigation progresses, additional information may be required from other dentists who have treated the patient or have been involved in the care of the patient. These dentists will be notified of the complaint about you. Depending on the complaint, information may be required from staff members, associates, and other professionals who can provide information relevant to the complaint.
Do complaints filed against me affect my standing with the CDSA?
Your standing may be affected depending on the results of an investigation or if the complaint is resolved. If the complaint is resolved or dismissed, it will not affect your standing with the CDSA. If you apply to practice in another jurisdiction, the CDSA will likely be required to disclose the number of complaints you have, the nature of the complaints, and the results of the complaints.
If your complaint is sent to a hearing, a notice of the hearing and the date will be published on the CDSA website. If you are found to have engaged in unprofessional conduct by a Hearing Tribunal, your standing with the CDSA will be affected. The results of the hearing and your name will be published on the CDSA website and in the CDSA Updater. During a suspension, the CDSA must notify Alberta Health Services, a hospital where you have privileges and other officials, as required by the Health Professions Act.
Please refer to the Membership Guide for Hearings and Decisions.
What are the possible outcomes of the complaint process?
- The complaint may resolve and the complaint file will be closed.
- The complaint can be dismissed. The person who has made a complaint can make a request for the dismissal to be reviewed, as permitted by the Health Professions Act. This request must be made within 30 days of the complainant receiving the dismissal letter. The dentist will be notified of the request for a review of the complaint and will be provided with information about the process and how to respond.
- The most serious complaints can be referred to a hearing. The decision makers at a hearing are three dentists and a member of the public, appointed by the Government of Alberta. They can dismiss the charges or find the dentist has engaged in unprofessional conduct and discipline the dentist. Please refer to the Membership Guide for Hearings and Decisions.