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Can I Become a Dentist If I Have a Criminal Record?

A criminal record potentially impacts an individual's ability to obtain a dental license in the state of California. The primary factor that is taken into consideration by the Dental Board of California is the type of crime committed by a person seeking to obtain a license to practice dentistry in the state. Another factor that does come into play is whether or not a person seeking licensure maintains a valid license in another state or is seeking to obtain authority to practice dentistry for the first time.

Crimes Involving Fraud

A person seeking to practice dentistry in California will find it difficult to impossible to obtain a license if he or she has a prior conviction for a crime involving fraud. The Dental Board of California will look at the underlying conviction in reviewing an application.

If the Fraud Charge Involved a Professional Practice

If the conviction for fraud arose out of an applicant's professional practice, no realistic possibility of obtaining a license exists. If a person has more than one conviction for fraud related to a professional practice, obtaining a dental license in California is not possible.

A situation in which a person with this type of fraud conviction seeks a California dental license involves an dentist who somehow maintains a valid license in another state despite the conviction. In this type of situation, an applicant likely has been found guilty of submitting fraudulent insurance claims or conduct of a similar nature.

Gaining a License If You Have Exactly One Fraud Charge

A person convicted of fraud unrelated to his or her professional practice on one occasion may be able to obtain approval for licensure from the Dental Board of California. However, obtaining such authorization is not a foregone conclusion. The Board will look at factors that include how long ago the crime occurred as well as whether the individual maintains a valid license in another state. A person enhances his or her chances of obtaining a license in this type of situation if the individual engages the professional assistance of a lawyer versed in this area of the law who understands the workings of the Dental Board of California.

Crimes of Violence

A felony conviction of certain crimes of violence can prevent a person from obtaining a license to practice dentistry in California. This particularly is the case if the crime of violence was perpetrated against a person in the applicant's care.

On the other hand, a conviction that may be considered a crime of violence but occurred as result of a person's gross negligence (or reckless) behavior does not necessarily serve as a complete bar to obtaining a license. For example, conviction that arose out of a situation involving a physical fight with an unrelated adult may not bar licensure.

Keep in mind that multiple convictions can preclude a person from getting a license. In addition, if a conviction is recent, a license may also be denied.

Sex Offenses

As a rule, because sex offenses by their very nature are crimes that involve a egregious violation of another individual's person, the Dental Board of California will not issue a license to a person with this type of crime on his or her record. The only possible exception exists in cases in which a person may be required to enroll on a sex offender registry for a crime like urinating in public. In some instances, an offense that probably does not rise to the level of a true sex crime can result in a conviction that requires a person to register as a sex offender (at least for a period of time).

Drug Offenses

Certain drug offenses can prevent a person from obtaining a California dental license. A prime example is a situation in which an individual licensed in another state seeks a California license but has a record that includes prescription abuse. This can include either misusing prescriptions to permit another individual to improperly obtain controlled substances or the applicant personally abusing the prescription process to obtain controlled substances.

Drug Offenses That May Be Overlooked

A single felony conviction for drug possession is not likely to derail the licensing process in California if the crime is fairly remote in time. With that noted, the approval of a license may be contingent upon the applicant being required to participate in substance abuse programs normally associated with the Board's Diversion Program for impaired dental professionals.

Other Felonies

An individual with other types of felonies that do not involve fraud or causing intentional physical harm to another individual will receive close scrutiny by the Dental Board of California when seeking a license. For example, if a person only has one conviction of this type on his or her record, and the crime occurred in the distant past, obtaining a license is possible. On the other hand, if the application is a serial offender or committed such a crime one time (but fairly recently), obtaining a dental license in California is not likely. A person optimizes his or her odds of becoming licensed through the engagement of a qualified, experienced attorney.


Generally speaking, a misdemeanor does not preclude a person from obtaining a dental license in the Golden State. With that noted, if a person has a criminal record that includes multiple misdemeanors, the Dental Board of California may elect to not grant a dental license. This particularly is a possibility if the misdemeanors on a person's criminal record are fairly recent.

Proactive Stance

A person who desires to become a dentist in California who has a criminal record needs to take a proactive stance. Included in being proactive is consulting with an attorney experienced with the Dental Board of California, who can review and analyze a person's situation even before an application for a license is submitted. A lawyer typically does not charge a fee for an initial consultation.

To see if your record is able to be cleared, the quickest and easiest way is to take this free online eligibility test or call one of our specialists at (877) 573-7273.

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