Overview of the RCDSO Registration Process for Dentists

We often assist applicants at the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) who encounter registration issues while seeking a license to practice dentistry in Ontario. These applicants may be recent dental graduates, international applicants, foreign-trained dentists, and dentists licensed in other provinces.  

In order to practice dentistry in Ontario, all applicants, including those who are fully licensed dentists in other jurisdictions, must obtain a certificate of registration from the RCDSO. To obtain a certificate of registration, the RCDSO generally requires applicants to complete a detailed and lengthy application package that includes questions about their education and other credentials, such as qualifying tests. Dentists from other jurisdictions must provide information about their discipline history in that jurisdiction, including details about any prior complaints, investigations, and discipline proceedings. The RCDSO stipulates that applicants cannot have criminal charges or convictions from any Canadian or international jurisdiction.

Every applicant seeking a license to practice dentistry in Ontario must also meet several requirements set out in O. Reg. 205/94: GENERAL, a regulation under the Dentistry Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 24. The requirements include, but are not limited to, the following: 

14. (1) It is a requirement for the issuing of a certificate of registration of any class that in the opinion of the Registrar or of the Registration Committee, as the case may be, the applicant’s past and present conduct afford reasonable grounds for the belief that the applicant, 

(a) is mentally competent and physically able to safely practise dentistry;

(b) will practise dentistry with decency, integrity and honesty and in accordance with the law;

(c) has sufficient knowledge, skill and judgment to competently engage in the kind of dental practice authorized by the certificate; 

(d) can communicate effectively; and

(e) will display an appropriate professional attitude.  O. Reg. 407/04, s. 1.

The applicant submits their application to the RCDSO Registrar. Upon receiving and reviewing the application, the Registrar has two options: 1. Register the applicant and issue a certificate of registration, or 2. Refer the matter to the Registration Committee for consideration. 

The Registrar may make a referral to the Registration Committee if, for example, they doubt that the applicant has fulfilled all of the RCDSO’s registration requirements. A panel of the Registration Committee, comprised of both dentists and non-dentists, then addresses the applicant’s matter.

An applicant whose matter is referred to the Registration Committee is generally entitled to notice and an opportunity to make written submissions. This means that the applicant may provide the RCDSO Registration Committee with a written statement that details how the applicant has met all relevant conditions of registration. Providing the Registration Committee with clear and persuasive submissions is one of the most important parts of the registration process, and has the potential to directly impact the length of the overall process.

The RCDSO Registration Committee considers the evidence and any written submissions, and then issues its decision. The Registration Committee may direct the Registrar to do the following: 1. Issue a certificate of registration, 2. Issue a certificate of registration if the applicant successfully completes further training, 3. Issue a certificate of registration with terms, conditions, and limitations, or 4. Refuse to issue a certificate of registration. The Registration Committee also typically issues reasons for its decision.

Applicants to the RCDSO generally have the right to a review or appeal of any decision of the Registration Committee, and these take place before the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB). HPARB is a government-funded independent body comprised exclusively of individuals who have never worked or qualified as dentists.  

An applicant is generally required to request a review or appeal before HPARB within 30 days after receiving an RCDSO decision. On review, HPARB re-examines the documents and materials that were available to the Registration Committee. On appeal, HPARB holds a full hearing that involves oral argument by the applicant or, if applicable, their lawyer, as well as the live testimony of witnesses. The RCDSO is also a party to an HPARB appeal or review, and typically would have a legal representative attend and defend the Registration Committee’s decision. 

After the review or appeal concludes, HPARB may determine that the Registration Committee’s decision was sound, and confirm the decision. Alternatively, HPARB may find that the Registration Committee committed an error, at which point there are generally two ways in which the matter can proceed. If, despite the error, the Registration Committee exercised its powers properly, it will be asked to take HPARB’s comments into account and reconsider the matter. However, if the Registration Committee exercised its powers improperly, HPARB may require the Registrar to override the Registration Committee’s decision and issue a certificate of registration. 

Rather than waiting until the appeal stage, it is prudent for applicants with registration issues at the RCDSO to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Retaining legal counsel early in the registration process may potentially enable the applicant to become a licenced dentist much sooner, as effective submissions to the Registration Committee may help avoid HPARB proceedings.

Applicants who are only licensed to practice dentistry elsewhere in Canada, also known as “out-of-province applicants”, require some special considerations. The Province of Ontario is a signatory to the Agreement on Internal Trade, which generally aims to remove restrictions on labour mobility between provinces. This may enable some applicants to obtain their RCDSO certificate of registration without additional training, experience, examinations, or assessments. As there are often other factors that have the potential to impact the registration process, out-of-province applicants should seek legal advice to determine their specific status and obligations.

Generally, any applicant wishing to practice dentistry in Ontario must first satisfy the RCDSO. Regardless of the situation, contacting a lawyer who is familiar with professional regulation of dentists can assist the applicant in navigating whatever issues they may experience during the registration process.

Josh Koziebrocki, is the principal lawyer and founder of Koziebrocki Law. He represents numerous dentists and has extensive experience dealing with regulatory issues. He can be reached at 416-925-5445.

josh@koziebrockilaw.com | www.koziebrockilaw.com