03 May Despite serious violations, Maine dentists often keep practicing
STATEWIDE (WGME) -The I-Team investigates dental dangers. We found dozens of Maine dentists are still actively practicing even after state documents show their work fell below the standard of care; some even admitted to incompetence.
We reviewed hundreds of pages of discipline handed out by the Maine Board of Dental Examiners all the way back to 2000.
Records show the board rarely decides on the harshest punishment — revoking a dentist’s license.
The members of the board are responsible for investigating complaints from patients against their dentists.
“The whole purpose of a regulatory board is to protect the public against practitioners who’ve either fallen below a standard of care or have acted unprofessionally,” said Penny Vaillancourt, Executive Director, Maine Board of Dental Examiners.
We found the board has disciplined about 90 dentists since 2000; an I-Team analysis of dental board actions found almost half of them are still practicing in Maine.
Some got in trouble for things like paperwork issues.
One dentist gave a patient nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, and then engaged in sexual contact.
Others, according to documents, pulled a permanent tooth instead of a baby tooth, hosted wild office parties, and ignored infection control procedures.
All were disciplined, but all are still practicing.
“You read some of those cases and you think ‘oh, my gosh,’ but at that time this was a way to bring the practitioner back in to compliance with professional standards,” Vaillancourt explained.
That’s the goal she said.
In fact, our review of records found since 2000, only four dentists have had their licenses revoked and eight denied a license renewal by the dental board.
That leaves dozens of disciplined dentists still practicing.
“Sometimes people find that system frustrating. I think some patients find it’s secretive or it’s really more physician-friendly than patient-friendly,” said Medical Malpractice Attorney Susan Faunce.