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Board Clears Lewiston Dentist Accused Of Health, Safety Violations

Patty Wight
Maine Public
Dr. Jan Kippax (from left), attorneys Adam Lee and James Belleau, and expert witness Dr. John Kelly

The Maine Board of Dental Practice has found in favor of a Lewiston dentist accused of putting the health and safety of his patients in immediate jeopardy.

Dr. Jan Kippax had his license temporarily suspended about a year ago after 18 patients filed nearly 200 complaints against him. But on Friday, the same board that suspended Kippax decided not to take further action.

The complaints against Kippax alleged, among other things, that he extracted the wrong teeth from patients, performed procedures before anesthesia took effect and continued with painful procedures even when patients asked him to stop.

After his license was suspended, the Maine Board of Dental Practice held several hearings over the fall to determine what, if any, further action to take against Dr. Kippax.

Attorneys for the state tried to prove that Kippax is incompetent and unprofessional, and narrowed the case to five patients and 64 complaints. But their case was dealt a major blow in November when an expert witness concluded that Kippax had not violated the standard of care. The state and the Board subsequently dismissed all but four complaints against Kippax.

Still, the state struggled to make a solid case because of conflicting testimony between patients, Dr. Kippax and his staff. In closing arguments on Friday, assistant attorney general James Bowie reminded the board that patients had clear memories of their experiences, while Kippax and his staff could not recall the incidents.

“So it comes down to a question of credibility,” he said.

But just prior to the closing arguments on Friday, another expert, Dr. John Kelly, a retired oral surgeon from Mass General, also testified in favor of Kippax. Kelly said that Kippax administered appropriate sedation and anesthesia.

As for continuing with painful procedures even when patients asked Kippax to stop, Kelly said it’s not uncommon for patients to feel pain for just an instant at the last moment a tooth is pulled.

“Generally speaking, that means a tooth has been removed and it’s certainly safe and reasonable to continue to take it out of the mouth,” he said.

Kippax’s attorney James Belleau told the board in his closing arguments that they could not ignore testimony from multiple experts that came to the same conclusion.

“There’s only one outcome that occurs in this case, whether you like it or not. Because it’s the state’s burden of proof to prove this by expert testimony, and they’ve failed to do so,” he said.

The board agreed. They determined that the state had not shown through a preponderance of evidence that Kippax violated standards of care in the remaining complaints. Afterwards, Belleau said he was pleased with the decision.

“I applaud the board for listening diligently and for upholding the law and requirements of the law that are designed both to protect the public and licensees in Maine,” he said.

It’s unclear whether the state will pursue the other patients and complaints it did not include in this set of hearings.