Professionals should not go up against their regulator alone

The College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (“CDHO”) is the regulator for dental hygienists in Ontario.  They:

  • decide who has a certificate to practice as a dental hygienist
  • handle complaints against dental hygienists

But your College does not work for you.  In fact, the College can:

  • deny applicant’s applications for a certificate to practice or
  • suspend, revoke or place terms, conditions, or limitations on dental hygienist’s certificate to practice

If you plan to apply to the College or have received notice of complaint it is important that you have representation to protect your interests and defend your rights.  

Our team of experienced lawyers can assist dental hygienists with matters including:

  • Advising dental hygienists on compliance with relevant legislation and standards
  • Responding to complaints and investigations at the College
  • Representing dental hygienists at the Fitness to Practise Committee
  • Defending dental hygienists in hearings before the Dental Hygienists Discipline Committee
  • Advocating for dental hygienists to resolve matters through the College’s complaint resolution process
  • Representing dental hygienists in appeals before the Divisional Court of Ontario
College of Dental Hygienists Appeals Fitness to Practise Committee Discipline Committee Complaints Process Registration


Applying for a license or in the College’s language a “Certificate of Registration” can be a rather complex process

The CDHO offers three categories of certificates of registration:

  • Generalideal fordental hygienists who meet the basic registration requirements 
  • Specialtyideal for registrants who hold a General certificate and have completed a program in restorative dental hygiene
  • Inactive – ideal for registrants who are taking some time away from practice 

Applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Completion of a full-time accredited educational program within the past 3 years
  • Successful completion of the exam set by the National Dental Hygiene Certification Board (NDHCB)
  • Completion of the mandatory online Jurisprudence Education Module


  • Completion of a College approved program in dental hygiene 
  • Successful completion of the clinical competency evaluation set or approved by the Registration Committee
  • **Completion of a clinical refresher course or professional competency assessment if, you graduated more than 3 years ago and have not practised dental hygiene in a recognized jurisdiction within the 3 years

All applications are screened by the Registrar who may decide to:

  • Issue a certificate if all requirements have been met
  • Deny the application if requirements have not been met

Our office can help you prepare an application and offer legal advice on concerns you may have. If you are planning to apply for a certificate from the CDHO, contact us today.

Complaints Process

The College of Dental Hygienists (“CDHO”) receives complaints from:

  • members of the public
  • clients of dental hygienists
  • employers of dental hygienists
  • other dental hygienists

Members of the College are required to file a complaint, if during their practice they have obtained reasonable grounds to believe that another member of the same or different College has sexually abused a patient

The first step of the complaint process is at the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee, often referred to as the “ICRC”

The ICRC is a written process – the complainant, the College and the member exchange a series of documents:

  1. A complaint against a member is made
  2. An investigation will begin
  3. The College provides the member with an official acknowledgement of the complaint
  4. The member has an opportunity to file a written response to the complaint
  5. The ICRC will issue a decision  

Utilizing a Risk Assessment Framework, the ICRC will make a decision that includes one or more of the following:

  • Taking no further action
  • Requiring that the dental hygienist to appear to be cautioned
  • Require a member to attend a specified continuing education or remediation program (SCERP)
  • Enter into an undertaking or agreement by which the member agrees to do (or not to do) certain things
  • Refer a matter to the Discipline or Fitness to Practise Committee

These outcomes can have very serious financial and personal impacts on members.  If you have received a complaint from the CDHO, please contact us today.

Discipline Committee

If the ICRC considers a complaint to be “high risk” it can be referred to the Discipline Committee.

Before a matter progresses to a hearing at the Discipline Committee a pre-hearing may occur.  A pre-hearing is an opportunity for the College and the member to present their case in an informal manner.  

In our experience a pre-hearing at a college can be used to:

  • Reduce the allegations against a member
  • Reduce the penalty being sought by a member
  • Raise important legal issues before trial

At the Discipline Committee a trial may take place where witnesses are called, and evidence is heard.

Outcomes at the Discipline Committee can include:

  • Revocation of the dental hygienist’s certificate
  • Suspension of the dental hygienist’s certificate
  • Imposing terms, conditions, and limitations on the dental hygienist’s certificate
  • Fines of up to $35,000 to the Ontario Minister of Finance
  • Orders for the member to pay some or all of the costs of a trial
  • Orders for members to reimburse the College for counselling and therapy provided to patients

These are extremely serious public outcomes.  If your matter has or could be referred to the Discipline Committee, please contact us today.

Fitness to Practise Committee

The Fitness to Practise Committee is a specialized Committee dealing with cases where a member’s conduct was impacted by an ongoing medical condition.  

For example, a mental health condition may impact a member’s ability to maintain professional standards in aspects of their practice.

In our experience, a referral to the Fitness to Practise Committee can offer a number of benefits to members, because:

  • Complaints are generally resolved in a more private manner
  • The goal of the process is ensuring the health of the member

However, it is unusual for members to be referred to Fitness to Practise Committees without legal representation.  It takes experienced and detailed representation to present the evidence screening Committees, like the ICRC, want to see to consider a referral to Fitness to Practise.  If there is a complaint against you, please contact us today.


Decisions of the:

  • ICRC, and
  • Registration Committee

can be appealed to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (“HPARB”)

Decisions of the:

  • Discipline Committee, and
  • Fitness to Practise Committee,

can be appealed to the Ontario Divisional Court

Unfortunately, self-represented individuals are very rarely successful in appeals.  We have unique expertise in appeals from regulatory colleges.  If you are considering an appeal, please contact us today.