Frequently Asked Questions


The following questions and answers are intended to provide information about the complaint process. The Board cannot assist the public with questions regarding insurance issues. The Board may receive anonymous complaints. However, anonymous complaints can be difficult to investigate. If the Board receives a complaint that does not involve a dentist, dental hygienist or dental assistant, the matter may be turned over the States Attorney.

Laws and rules governing dentistry describe certain events as unlawful. Some complaints do not fall within the Board's jurisdiction. For example, the Board cannot take action against a dentist who is rude or has poor chairside manner. The Board cannot resolve fee disputes or seek restitution for complainants.


Who can file a complaint?

A complaint may be filed by anyone who believes that a licensee of the Board has engaged in illegal or unprofessional activities related to his/her professional responsibilities. This includes, but is not limited to, substandard dental care, insurance or Medicaid fraud, or infection control issues. Complaints involving allegations which are not within the jurisdiction of the Board include fee or billing disputes and personality conflicts. A complaint may be filed against a dentist, dental hygienist or dental assistant.

How do I file a complaint?

Complaint forms are available by:

1. Downloading the Complaint Form 

2. Call the NDSBDE and request a Complaint Form at (701) 258-8600

3. E-mail the NDSBDE and request the form. 

You must submit a signed, completed and notarized complaint form and you must sign the Release of Records box at the end of the form. In addition, submit any available records, x-rays, photos invoices and any note any communications with the practitioner regarding the case. Details provided help the Board decide what action, if any, is appropriate. Your health and personal information is confidential and will not be part of any public record. Although the Board also reviews anonymous complaints, investigations can be more difficult. During the Board's investigatory process, do not wait until the outcome to complete dental treatment. You may have to seek dental treatment from a new provider. 

How are complaints processed?

Once a complaint is received the Board will notify the complainant should further information be required. The other party is given an opportunity to respond to the Board regarding the complaint. After receipt of pertinent information and records, information is forwarded by the Complaint Committee to the full Board. The Board will dismiss, further investigate, or move to initiate disciplinary action.  If it has been determined that a complaint must be formally investigated, the complainant is advised and may be interviewed by the investigator assigned to the case. This interview will provide the complainant an opportunity to fully discuss the details of the complaint, answer the investigator's questions, and be informed of the overall process. The investigator may also interview the subject (licensee) who will be advised of the nature of the complaint.

To ensure that the success of the investigation is not jeopardized in any way, the details of the investigation remain confidential and are not public record.  However once the Board initiates disciplinary action, an agreement between the  Board and the defendant become a public document. Personal information and  health information continue as a non-public record.  

If I refuse xrays, can my dentist refuse to provide me treatment?

YES. Your dentist may feel that x-rays are necessary to make a proper diagnosis or treatment plan. Treatment without the necessary radiographs may be considered negligence. A patient also has a right to refuse any dental treatment proposed by the dentist or seek treatment elsewhere.

What is an amalgam (silver filling)?

In dentistry, an amalgam is a dental filling material used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay. It has been used for more than 150 years in hundreds of millions of patients around the world. Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals, consisting of liquid (elemental) mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin, and copper. Approximately 50% of dental amalgam is elemental mercury by weight.  The chemical properties of elemental mercury allow it to react with and bind together the silver/copper/tin alloy particles to form an amalgam. Dental amalgam fillings are also known as “silver fillings” because of their silver-like appearance.  More information on dental amalgam and amalgam alternatives may be found on the FDA's (Food and Drug Administration) web site.

Must a dentist examine every patient who receives a routine prophylaxis?  Is it the law?        

No, it is not a law. It is the dentist’s prerogative to determine whether a complete examination is necessary at a given visit and how often the exam is conducted. Your dentist may feel that an examination is necessary to make a proper diagnosis or treatment plan. The dentist is the only dental practitioner who may make a diagnosis.

I think my dentist may be abusing drugs/alcohol. what should I do?

Please report this activity in writing and contact the Board immediately; (701) 258-8600. 

I filed a complaint months ago and have not heard anything from the Board. Why?

Members of the Board’s Complaint Committee review all complaints received by the Board. The review may take an extended length of time depending on the type of allegation and its intricacy. Once the details of the complaint are compiled, the full board must review the elements of the complaint in its entirety. The Board may move to further investigate, dismiss the complaint, or proceed with a disciplinary action.  Once a final resolution has been reached both parties are notified.

What should I do after I file a complaint?

Do not wait for the outcome of your complaint to continue necessary treatment. If you need of dental treatment, seek dental treatment from another provider. The Board may require several months to process complaints. Do not jeopardize your dental health.

Can you tell me if a dentist has any been the subject of any complaints?

Complaints are confidential and are not public record unless the Board takes an action and prevails in its action. If a complaint is dismissed, the record is not public.

Is my dentist or dental hygienist licensed with the Board?  

You may search the status of any ND licensed dentist, dental hygienist or dental assistant to verify license numbers, issue dates, expiration dates and disciplinary actions filed related to licensees. 

Does the Board have an attorney who can help me?

No. Individuals seeking legal action must locate and consult their own private legal counsel, if desired. The Board will not provide legal advice.

Messages for the Board and contacting the board. 

Phone calls are returned in order received and during regular business hours. Please leave one message with your full name and a contact number. Additional informtion provided to the Board must be in writing. During an active investigation, members of the Board are prohibited from verbal discussion with complainants or defendants. Written comments or submitting further information to the Board is acceptable. If you call regarding your complaint the Board's office will relay questions or information.  During a meeting of the Board, the Complaint Committee presents the information to the full Board. A decision may be reached or further information may be requested by the members of the Board. At the conclusion of the Boards deliberations, the complaint and defendant are notified. You may email the Board  at

Why was my case dismissed/closed?

Cases may be closed or dismissed if they do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Board, lack sufficient evidence, or if allegations (if proven) would constitute at least a minimum standard of care. A complaint that is a fee dispute is not within the Board's jurisdiction. 

What other options do I have?

Even in the best dentist-patient relationship, problems may occur. First, try to communicate any concerns you have with your practitioner. Lack of communication is often the biggest stumbling block in resolving issues. Secondly, if your grievance is related to a fee dispute, the North Dakota Dental Association has an established dispute resolution system called Peer Review to help resolve disagreements about dental treatment. You may also pursue the matter through the court system.

What is Peer Review?

The purpose of the peer review system is to resolve disputes that may arise in the delivery of dental services to the public. Unbiased, objective and timely reviews are conducted using the North Dakota Dental Association's format for addressing disputes between patients, dental care providers and third-party carriers. Peer review is not a court and has no disciplinary function. It merely provides an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, at no cost to either party. Peer Review is a process by which the dental profession reviews and attempts to resolve dental treatment problems and misunderstandings through mediation. Alternatively, you may choose to file a complaint with your insurance company or consult an attorney and pursue the matter through the court system. The North Dakota Board of Dental Examiners is not associated with, affiliated with, or a subsidiary division of the North Dakota Dental Association. 

What if I wish to dispute my fees or want a refund?

Refunds or any types of monetary compensation are not within the authority of the Board to resolve. You may wish to contact the North Dakota Dental Association, to request your complaint be addressed by the ND Dental Association's Peer Review process.

X-rays and lead aprons

Regulations from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) do not specifically state that dental patients or the operators of dental X-ray equipment must wear lead aprons. However, the use of an apron usually puts the patient more at ease psychologically and is generally recommended practice in the office. Dental personnel who perform dental radiography are responsible for adhering to radiation safety procedures for the protection of the patient and for their own protection.

Each licensed dentist and X-ray machine user must  take all precautions necessary to provide reasonably adequate protection health, and safety of all individuals who are subject to exposure to radiation. This includes;

  • judicious prescription of radiographs for individual patients based on selection criteria, i.e., pregnancy;
  • necessary exposures are kept as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA); and
  • doses received by patients and personnel are kept well below the allowable limits.


Here you will find an alphabetical glossary of the most asked about dental terms.

Abscess. An infection of the tooth, bone or soft tissue.

Amalgam.  A restorative material, silver colored also known as “silver fillings.”  

Bite-wing. An x-ray that shows the in between spaces of upper and lower teeth. Bite-wing x-rays help the dentist detect decay that may be starting between teeth; the beginning decay may not otherwise be detected.

Bleaching. A chemical treatment applied to natural teeth producing a whitening effect for a period of time. The effectiveness of teeth whitening or bleaching is dependent on the oral hygiene practices and dietary habits of the patient and the cause of the discoloration.

Braces.  Devices put in place by a dental specialist called an orthodontist. Over time, the braces gradually reposition teeth to improve function, alignment and esthetics. A general dentist may provide braces.Bridge.  A dental restoration used to preplace a missing tooth or several teeth by securing artificial teeth to adjacent teeth. A bridge can be fixed to adjacent teeth or may be removable and clasp to adjacent teeth.

Calculus. A hard deposit that forms on the teeth. Calculus is also known as tartar. A dental hygienist or a dentist may remove the hard deposits. The accumulated buildup of tartar or calculus below the gumline may cause periodontal disease and/or eventual tooth loss.

Composite Restoration. A tooth colored restorative material composed of plastic with small glass or ceramic particles. The restoration is usually cured or hardened with a special light.

Crown.  A tooth shaped “cap” that is placed over a tooth, to restore the original shape, esthetics, strength and function. Crowns may be fabricated in a dental laboratory or in the dental office.

Deciduous Teeth. Also known as “baby” teeth or primary teeth. While adults usually develop 32 permanent teeth, children develop 20 deciduous teeth.

Dental Assistant. The Board registers two levels of dental assistant: QDA’s and RDA’s. Dental assistants generally assist the dentist or another auxiliary. Dental assistants provided duties based on their level of training and education. Dental assistants who are not registered with the Board provide may only provide limited functions including assisting with a medical history, taking a blood pressure or temperature, application of topical anesthetics to gum tissue, and taking impressions or holding impression trays in position for the dentist. Other duties dental assistants provide require authorization by the Board. To become registered by the Board a dental assistant must provide proof of education, and testing. A qualified dental assistant or QDA may take dental radiographs. An RDA or Registered Dental Assistant may provide many other duties including, restorative procedures, sealants, or assist oral surgeons with anesthesia related procedures.

Dental Hygienist. An RDH or registered dental hygienist is a clinician who provides preventive, therapeutic and education to assist individuals in the control of oral disease.  A dental hygienist may be authorized to work without the presence of a dentist. A dental hygienist may be authorized to provide local anesthetic, restorative procedures or assist an oral surgeon with anesthesia related procedures.

Dentist. The North Dakota Board of Dental Examiners licenses an individual who has received a diploma with the credential of DDS meaning Doctor of Dental Science or the credential of DMD, Doctor of Dental Medicine. A dentists have advanced education and specialty training beyond dental school (Endodontics, Dental Public Health, Oral Maxillofacial Surgery, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Periodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, Prosthodontics).  

Dry Mouth. A condition in which the flow of saliva is reduced. Dry mouth may be caused by dehydration, tobacco use or loss of salivary glands. Other reasons may be medications, diseases, certain medical treatments, and nerve damage.

Enamel. The outer layer of the tooth that lies above the gum line.

Endodontics. Treatment of the teeth with root canal problems. 

Endodontist. A dentist who specializes in the treatment of oral conditions that are a result of disease or an injury of the dental pulp of the tooth. An endodontist has advanced training and education beyond dental school and specializes in treating the pathology of the root tissues of the tooth, the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries to the dental pulp and nerve tissue of the tooth.

Extraction. Removal of a tooth.

Fluoride. A mineral known to strengthen teeth. Fluoride is available in most toothpastes, or can be applied as a gel to the surface of the teeth. Fluoride is naturally occurring in many water supplies. The average fluoride content of the Missouri River is .69 mg/l, an optimal level for preventing tooth decay.

Gingivitis. Reversible inflammation of the gum tissue excluding bone. 

Implant. An implant is an option for replacing a missing tooth. The implant is surgically placed to integrate with the bones of the mandible or maxilla to support a dental prosthesis such as a crown or a bridge or a denture.

Impression. A mold made of the teeth and soft tissue.

Mandible. Lower jaw.  

Maxilla. Consists of two bones fused together forming the upper jaw and palate of the mouth.

Mouth Guard. An appliance designed to protect the teeth from injury. A dentist may recommend that athletes wear a removable appliance designed to protect the teeth by covering upper or lower teeth during impact related sporting events.

Night Guard. A dentist may recommend a removable appliance designed to fit over upper or lower teeth to prevent wear and temporomandibular damage caused by grinding of the teeth.

Nitrous Oxide. Also called “laughing gas” and is used to reduce patient anxiety.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon. Also known as OMFS, or oral surgeons. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is a specialty of dentistry. Oral surgeons treat impacted teeth, treatment of injuries and developmental malformations of the mouth, jaws and related structures of the head and neck. Some oral surgeons also hold a medical degree. 

OrthodonticsThe dental specialty that is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of dental deformities as well as irregularity in the relationship of the lower to the upper jaw.

Orthodontist. A dentist with advanced education beyond dental school. An orthodontist specializes in the alignment of teeth and treatment of problems related to growth and development of face and jaws.

Pedodontist or Pediatric Dentist. A pediatric dentist has advanced training and education in the dental treatment of infants, children and young adults.

Periodontist. The dentist with advanced education and training specializing in the diagnosis, surgical intervention, treatment and prevention of the gums, supporting bones and teeth.

Periodontitis. A more advanced state of periodontal disease which may result in tooth loss, bad breath, receding gums and loose teeth. The gum tissue and supportive bone pull away from the teeth. A patient who has periodontal disease may be referred to a periodontist.

Plaque. A colorless, sticky film mixed with saliva and bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth and eventually turns to calculus or tartar if not removed.

Post. A very thin metal rod inserted into the root of a tooth after a root canal procedure. The post provides strength and retention to the tooth and is inserted prior to restoration of the tooth with a crown or other material.

Prophylaxis: Also known as a “cleaning”. Removal of plaque and calculus and stain from surfaces of the teeth. The procedure is generally provided by a dental hygienist.

Prosthodontist. A dentist who specializes in restoring or replacing teeth with fixed or removable appliances. A prosthodontist also treats facial deformities with artificial prostheses.

Pulp. Contains the nerve tissue and blood vessels of the tooth.

Retainer. A retainer is designed to discourage tooth movement after braces are removed. A retainer can be removable or attached to the teeth. 

Scaling and Root Planing. Also known as a deep cleaning or periodontal cleaning. Plaque and tartar or calculus are removed from below (and above) the gum line. Roots of the teeth are scaled and removed of rough spots which collect plaque and tartar. Local anesthetic may be part of the treatment.

Sealant. A thin plastic coating painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth, usually premolars and molars, to act as a barrier to prevent cavities. Sealants are safe and cost effective way to help patients prone to cavities.

Space Maintainer. A device which holds a space open. The space may be caused from premature loss of a baby tooth. The space maintainer allows room for the new tooth to move into position.

Stomatitis. An inflammation of the tissue underlying a denture. Causes of the condition may include dentures that no longer fit properly, poor oral hygiene, or a buildup of the fungus called Candida albicans.

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) or temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Problems that relate to the joint and muscles connecting the mandible or lower jaw with the skull.

Thrush. Also known as Oral Candidiasis is an infection in the mouth caused by the fungus Candida.

Veneer. A thin custom made plastic or porcelain shell bonded to the outer surface of natural teeth to enhance the appearance or color of the tooth.

Wisdom Teeth: The most posterior molars that usually erupt between the ages of 16 and 23.

X-rays. In dentistry there are generally 4 types of x-rays. Periapical (one tooth or area including the root tip and surrounding bone structure), bite-wing (captures in between spaces of upper and lower crowns of teeth), occlusal (reveals entire arch), and panoramic. X-rays may detect decay, allow the dentist to see the health of the tooth root and bone surrounding the tooth, or check the status of a developing tooth. X-rays may be intraoral, the film is inside the mouth or extra oral, the film is outside the mouth. Extra oral films such as a panoramic film show teeth, however the main focus is the jaw and skull, impacted teeth and may identify potential problems between teeth and jaw development. Frequency of routine dental x-rays and dental examinations during appointments is up to you and your dentist.