Dr. Jan Kippax cleared of remaining charges by dental board

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AUGUSTA — After five days of testimony spread across three months, Maine’s dental overseers Friday threw out the remaining charges against Lewiston oral surgeon Jan Kippax.

James Belleau, the attorney for Kippax, credited members of the Maine Board of Dental Practice for listening to the evidence, especially the testimony of two experts who backed Kippax, and “applying the law correctly.”

The move brings to a close every existing charge against the longtime dentist, though the state has the option of levying a new case against him from among the scores of allegations it opted to put aside.

“We’ll deal with whatever happens next,” Belleau said. “I wish it never got to this point.”

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Kippax has been under fire since 2016 and suffered a 30-day suspension of his license last winter after the dental board proclaimed he lacked the skill, empathy, respect for patients and “commitment to serving his community in a safe and caring way.”

“Basically his career has been ruined by it,” Belleau told the five dental board members who heard the case. He told them, “Only you can try to make it right.”

Panel members expressed sympathy for some of Kippax’s patients, particularly Christine Duplissis of Greene, who complained of mistreatment by the dentist when she sought to have a tooth pulled in July 2015.

They said, though, the assistant attorneys general arguing for the state failed to prove their charges were likely true, especially in the face of two expert witnesses — one of them called by the state — who said Kippax had not violated the standards of care for oral surgeons.

“I knew it would play out like this,” Duplissis said. “You speak up and then nothing ever happens.”

Belleau, who practices in Auburn, recognized that the panel members hearing the case felt sorry for Duplissis and other patients.

He told them that given the evidence presented, they had to follow their legal obligations.

“There’s only one outcome that can occur in this case, whether you like it or not,” he said.

In the end, four of the five board members voted to clear Kippax of all of the remaining charges. One, Rowan Morse, thought there was enough evidence to justify sanctions on one of the four counts under consideration.

When the board suspended Kippax last February, it cited 195 allegations of improper conduct with 18 patients to justify its warning that recklessness had put “his patients and staff in immediate jeopardy.”

But when it got around to holding a hearing on them in September, the tally had shrunk to 64 charges involving his treatment of five patients. A month ago, the state dropped half of them and the board tossed out 28 additional charges for lack of evidence.

Friday, it wiped away the remaining four, with nobody offering an explanation of why the board thought last winter that Kippax posed such a threat to the public that he should be suspended immediately.

Belleau repeated a charge Friday that a board member who investigated the case — and was not among those deciding the charges — and the board’s executive director were biased against Kippax and had misled the panel. The case’s hearing officer, Mark Terison, said neither could discuss any aspect of the case as long as more charges could potentially be brought.

The expert who testified Friday, John Kelly, a retired oral surgeon and physician who taught oral surgery at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and practiced at hospitals such as Massachusetts General Hospital and Yale-New Haven Hospital, said Kippax not only met the standards of his profession but in some instances exceeded them.

Kelly said charges that Kippax refused to stop when patients complained of pain were off the mark.

He said that depending on the point where it happens, there are times a surgeon has to “just finish up” because stopping would leave the patient in worse shape than pressing on.

He suggested that Duplissis, who had one bad tooth that had to be pulled, may have experienced “an instantaneous bit of pain” during the few seconds it took to yank her abscessed tooth. Sometimes, he said, a “hot tooth” like that can provide “a zinger” when it is finally removed.

James Bowie, one of the assistant attorneys general, said Duplissis cried and sobbed throughout the procedure.

But she said Friday it only began to hurt when Kippax started to pull. She said she cried for him to stop, but he didn’t.

Kelly said patients who are sedated, as Duplissis was, don’t recall events sharply, if at all, and sometimes do odd things.

“They can moan. They can groan. They can do a lot of things,” he said. “One sat bolt upright and said, ‘Does anyone here want to buy a duck?’”

scollins@sunjournal.com

Lewiston oral surgeon Jan Kippax sits at a hearing Friday to determine what, if any, sanctions board members would impose on him for alleged violations of professional standards. The Maine Board of Dental Practice decided not to bring any sanctions against Kippax. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)

Dr. John Kelly, left, an oral surgeon and medical doctor who worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and Yale-New Haven Hospital, told the Maine Board of Dental Practice on Friday that Lewiston oral surgeon Jan Kippax did not mistreat patients who filed complaints against him. Looking on is Dr. Glen Davis, one of the five panel members who ultimately decided no sanctions should be levied against Kippax. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)

Dr. Jan Kippax, a Lewiston oral surgeon, at a hearing Friday in Augusta before the Maine Board of Dental Practice. The panel was weighing charges that Kippax failed to provide proper care to patients. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)

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  • disqus_lW5Wars68c

    So, where does Dr. Kippax go to get his reputation back?

    • Gerry Thompson

      He should sue the Sun Journal. They have pushed hard to discredit him and ruin his practice

      • Marc A. Jalbert

        You cannot be serious. Blame the paper for this man’s problems. Really!
        You are telling me that the people that came forward regarding their issues with what happened to them were lying, or making this up?

        Give me a brake.

        • FrankE

          They may not be making it up, then again they may not realize what really happened. Anxiety before the fact added to the rush of everything going on around you, is scary enough for some. Add to that the effects of strong sedation medication and it could be a whole different circus ride. Judging from the many thousands of patients Dr Kippax has treated, along with at least six or seven of my own procedures. I’m going to support Dr Kippax. He rebuilt the face of a friend of mine after a herendous accident. With out his skill she would have been permanatly disfigured. I can only judge by what I’ve witnessed, I say Dr Kippax got a raw deal in all of this………..

      • Mammie

        You need your head examined, this man damaged his own reputation! He ran business preying on those less fortunate in life… blaming them for his lack of empathy. What doctor in his right mind would say the things he has about his patients… NONE that should be practicing. The butcher found a way to line his pocket on the dime of Maine tax payers, except the lower income Maine insured families.. no one will notice, no one will care. Guess what I hope he has enjoyed his day in court.. most will run away from that office knowing he used cold coke cans, towel with dog feces.. Come on OPEN YOUR eyes.. his blame game is only on him. I am not or never been in the care of this man, but personally have seen the damage and destruction he has done to someone. Look at his past, the issues are not only with his practice. Are you looking at the pictures posted by the Lewiston Sun Journal.. the smug look on his face. Maine Board of Dental board Needs to look in the face of EVERY client this man has wronged, and see the pain in their eyes. I am not sure how they can sleep at night, hopefully the State of Maine will not put him back on as a dentist able to submit to Maine care. Crazy world we live in to have that many come forward, and this man not get shut down. Wake up

    • Mammie

      Hopefully UNDER A ROCK…. and shame on the Maine Dental Board, this butcher has damaged many lives!

  • Pirate2

    The tragedy is that Dr. Kippax has been found guilty in the court of public opinion. The damage, permanent or not, has been done. All of these people couldn’t have been lying, but some where also probably riding the emotional feeding frenzy that often accompanies such matters.

    • disqus_lW5Wars68c

      It appears that offering procedures to low-income patients helped do him in. Certainly other dentists who are on the fence about accepting Mainecare will be extremely wary, thus exacerbating the problem of access to dental services for the poor.

    • Gerry Thompson

      Having followed this story it appears people expect oral surgery to be a merry-go-round ride. People don’t like going to the dentist and that is the main reason why they end up at an oral surgeon’s office. I expect that having to be up close to people’s faces when having to do extractions may magnify and fears or anxiety.

  • FrankE

    I wish the SJ could somehow publish the total number of patients Dr. Kippax has seen at his Main St location over the years. I’ve had numerous procedures done in the last twenty years or so. My family has had procedures done successfully. I know many other patients of Dr Kippax and I have never heard one complaint other than the normal anxiety related trouble facing patients who are just scared to death of dental work. That’s usually the reason many patients end up at the oral surgeons office, it’s their last resort.
    I have a news flash here, Dr Kippax is not perfect, but he’s always able to get a patient in quickly, he does good work. Many people can’t imagine having a tooth pulled especially if it’s their first one. Anxiety has a way of amplifying everything around them and the process is never what I would call pleasant. These people have an abscessed tooth that’s pounding pain for two weeks before they finally give in and visit the doctor. Then they complain about the pain that occurs in the process of the thirty second procedure. I’m sorry but you can’t destroy a persons livelihood over your own primal fears. On top of that this last claimant who accused the Dr was a recovering drug addict. She had been clean for two years, but I have a feeling if it were opiates being her drug of choice, then her tolerance to anesthesia may be compromised. I use opiates for chronic pain, and my tolerance to anesthesia is somewhat compromised. She can’t blame anyone else but herself for that one.
    I just hope Dr Kippax can now make it to retirement before the next round of bogus claims of malpractice come around. I’m glad the board saw things correctly…………..

  • Marc A. Jalbert

    Frank,

    I understand where you are coming from. You are aware of positive experiences with
    this doctor.

    My wife had a negative experience with him but not to the
    extent of some of the complaints that came through. Her experience had her making the decision to never again seek his care.

    What has to be realized here is that everyone isn’t perfect, and I know you share that thought. The assumption needs to be considered that he may very well have, at some time, crossed the
    line. Accountability is what I believe has not been addressed here. I am angry
    about that, but also at the dental board, who are supposed to be there to
    advocate for wrongdoing and given the end result that just isn’t the case.

    Frank, it is your right to feel the way you do, and I mine. I enjoy reading your comment entries and will continue to read you. I share many of your views and usually acknowledge them by a thumbs up on your comments.

    Frank thank you for being you, and I hope and trust you and yours will have a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    • FrankE

      Thank You, and Happy New Year to you as well. I guess we all have to decide based on our own information. Like I said I had many procedures done as well as my daughter having her wisdom teeth removed. Plus given the amount of people always waiting in his waiting room, I can only imagine the number of patients he sees in a year. I had a bad experience with a surgeon at one of our local hospitals, very bad, yet I wouldn’t chastise the guy, no ones perfect.