Professional conduct complaints are taken very seriously.
The Alberta College of Dental Hygienists, as regulator of the dental hygiene profession under authority of the Health Professions Act, has a mandate to protect the public from "unprofessional conduct" and hold registrants of the profession accountable for the care they provide.
Unprofessional conduct is conduct that is determined to be "unskilled practice" and "professional or ethical misconduct". Any Albertan can file a complaint with the College regarding a dental hygiene practitioner and the College will investigate and determine what, if any, remedial action is required.
If you have a concern about a dental hygienist, you may make a complaint to the College. The complaint will be dealt with in accordance with the processes set out in the Health Professions Act, which governs the College and the dental hygiene profession in Alberta.
As per Part 4 - Professional Conduct - in the Health Professions Act (HPA), a complaint can be submitted to the Complaints Director in writing and cannot be made anonymously. Once the College has received a complaint, it will be dealt with in accordance with the processes set out in the HPA
A complaint cannot be made about a former registrant if 2 years have elapsed since the person's registration was cancelled. For more details about the complaint process, read the sections below.
Information provided on this page is provided to outline the complaints process and is not intended to replace legal advice.
The CRDHA is now operating as the ACDH. Some documents may still contain the CRDHA name and logo.
A complaint about the professional conduct of a dental hygienist may be submitted, in writing, to the College Complaints Director.
The complaint must name the dental hygienist and should provide details about the concern in question, including dates, times and locations. It should also include any documents or other evidence that supports your complaint.
Click the button to submit a complaint to the College.
Submit a Complaint
After you submit a written complaint, you will be referred to as the complainant and the dental hygienist will be referred to as the investigated person.
The Complaints Director has a number of options for proceeding depending on the circumstances of the complaint. You will be advised of the action to be taken within 30 days of receipt of your complaint by the Complaints Director.
After receiving a complaint, the Complaints Director may:
- Encourage you and the investigated person to communicate with each other and resolve the complaint
- Attempt to resolve the complaint, with your consent and the consent of the investigated person
- Refer the complaint to an alternative complaint resolution process
- Ask an expert to assess the subject matter of the complaint and provide a written report
- Conduct or appoint an investigator to conduct an investigation
- Dismiss the complaint
- Direct the investigated person to undergo certain physical or mental examinations if the Complaints Director believes the investigated person may be incapacitated
If the Complaints Director dismisses the complaint before an investigation is conducted, the Complaints Director will advise you of the decision within 30 days. You may request this decision be reviewed by a complaint review committee. The right to apply for a review is discussed further below.
If the Complaints Director decides to conduct an investigation, the Complaints Director will advise you and will usually give the investigated person the name of the investigator and reasonable particulars about the complaint being investigated, including information about the complainant. In most cases, it will not be possible to keep the complainant's name confidential.
The investigator will interview everyone who may have information about the complaint. The investigator will also review any relevant documents.
After the investigation is complete, the investigator will provide a report to the Complaints Director, who will then:
- Refer the complaint to a hearing,or
- Dismiss the complaint if:
- The complaint is trivial or vexatious, or
- There is insufficient or no evidence of unprofessional conduct
The Complaints Director will notify you in writing of the action taken.
It depends on the nature of the complaint. The review and investigation of a complaint can take three months or longer.
If your complaint has been dismissed you may apply to the Hearings Director for a review. Your application for review must be in writing and must provide reasons for your request. You must complete this request within 30 days of being advised that your complaint was dismissed.
The ACDH's Complaint Review Committee will review the decision to dismiss the complaint. Both you and the investigated person will be given the opportunity to make submissions to the Complaint Review Committee.
The Complaints Review Committee will do one of the following:
- Refer the complaint to a hearing
- Direct a further investigation
- Confirm that the complaint is dismissed
If a complaint is referred to a hearing, the Hearings Director will set a hearing date and provide you and the investigated person with notice of the date, time and location of the hearing. Hearings are open to the public unless the Hearing Tribunal orders otherwise.
The purpose of the hearing is to ensure that the Hearing Tribunal has enough information to decide if the conduct of the investigated person does or does not constitute unprofessional conduct. As the complainant, you may be called as a witness, but you will not make submissions on your own behalf.
If the Hearing Tribunal finds that there has been unprofessional conduct, it can do one of more of the following:
- Caution or reprimand the investigated person
- Impose conditions on the investigated person's practice permit
- Require the investigated person to satisfy the Hearing Tribunal that they are not incapacitated
- Require counselling or a treatment program
- Require a course of study
- Suspend or cancel the investigated person's practice permit
- Impose fines
- Make any other appropriate order
You and the investigated person will receive a copy of the decision.
No. The professional conduct process in the Health Professions Act is intended to determine whether or not a dental hygienist's conduct is unprofessional. The Hearing Tribunal does not have the power to award monetary damages to a complainant.
If you are seeking financial compensation from a dental hygienist you may wish to seek legal advice.
Although there is no way to guarantee that you will never have a complaint filed against you, the best way to minimize your risk is to ensure that you are using the highest possible standards of practice at all times. This includes meeting or exceeding practice standards and guidelines, following all applicable treatment protocols, following the Code of Ethics and using the highest standards of client care.
Additionally, one of the most important elements in your relationship with your clients is effective communication. Listen carefully so you understand what your clients hope to gain from their treatment. Ensure your clients understand their treatment plan, including the treatment you are proposing, what results can be reasonably expected, potential risks or complications, and the fees that will be charged.
If a client raises a concern, deal with it immediately. A formal complaint may be avoided if the client feels that his or her concern has been dealt with respectfully and honestly. In some cases, however, a formal complaint may still result, so it is prudent to keep careful notes of any concerns that are raised.
Did your dental hygienist do something to make you feel uncomfortable? Perhaps they touched you in a way that was not medically necessary or appropriate? Perhaps they said something sexually suggestive?
The ACDH developed the resource Understanding Boundary Violations and Sexual Abuse/Sexual Misconduct for dental hygiene clients to help them understand what constitutes a boundary violation. They also developed a document detailing the Complaints Process for Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct for clients of dental hygienists. Click the buttons to read these resources.
Understanding Boundary Violations and Sexual Abuse/Sexual Misconduct
Complaints Process for Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct
If you believe your dental hygienist may have crossed a boundary of a sexual nature we urge you to contact the Complaints Director at 780-465-1756 (toll free 1-877-465-1756) to discuss.
Coming forward about your inappropriate encounter is important for many reasons, such as:
- Helping us to act to prevent what happened to you from happening to others
- Helping you find a sense of closure in your personal healing process
Additionally, there are a variety of situations were funding for counselling or therapy may be available by filing a complaint with the CRDHA. Additional details on this funding can be found in the document Guidelines for the Treatment and Counselling for Sexual Abuse and Misconduct Complaints.
Treatment and Counselling Guidelines