Four years ago, David Grard had two badly infected teeth that had to come out. It didn’t go well.

Grard is one of half a dozen former patients of Lewiston oral surgeon Jan Kippax who described to the Sun Journal incidents they believe support the Maine Board of Dental Practice’s decision this month to suspend Kippax’s license and perhaps take further steps soon.

The ex-patients told of what they considered poor care: teeth yanked for no reason, a broken jaw, a snipped nerve, a lip section sliced off, a refusal to provide painkillers and lots of blood. They were unanimous about one thing: that Kippax should lose his license.

The state board is eyeing 18 complaints from 2015 and 2016 that convinced it to suspend Kippax from practicing, pending a March 10 hearing that could lead to a range of further punishments. Grard’s case is one of the 18.

Another former patient, Steven Darnell Jr. of Minot, took a different approach. He filed the only malpractice case brought against the dentist in Androscoggin County Superior Court.

Darnell alleges Kippax did nothing about a jaw infection that followed a tooth extraction in 2010 that had left Darnell in pain ever since. A jury is slated to hear the malpractice case in October.

Asked on the phone for comment about the cases Thursday, Kippax hung up on a reporter.

Grard said Thursday that he went to Kippax for help with two bad teeth. He sat down in the chair and waited for that moment when he’d get some Novocain shots to numb the pain before the procedure began.

He said that as Kippax approached him for the first time, he realized the dentist planned to get to work without offering anything to help reduce the pain.

“I’m not numbed up at all,” Grard said he told Kippax, who ignored him.

“He had ahold of me and I was screaming like a banshee,” Grard said. From a prone position in the chair, he said, “there’s nothing you can do” except try to get through it.

Grard said he’s had a burst bowel and a burst appendix, but neither hurt as much as Kippax yanking those two teeth without any painkillers.

When it was over, he said, he was “bleeding pretty badly” but the dentist didn’t even offer a piece of gauze before sending him out the door.

Furious at his treatment, Grard said he filed a formal complaint with the Maine Board of Dental Practice. “I really wanted to get him,” said Grard, a Lewiston resident.

He heard nothing in response for about six months, then received a letter telling him that the case had been closed for lack of evidence. Grard said he felt angry at the response. He said he thought, “There’s nothing I can do. He’s gotten away with it.”

Lisa Jenkins of Oxford can sympathize.

She said she asked Kippax to pull a bad tooth in 2009, but while she was under, he tugged out six more. She woke up while he was trying to pull yet another, a wisdom tooth that wouldn’t come out no matter how he struggled.

“I was in so much pain that I was literally screaming and crying,” Jenkins said.

He finally gave up trying to get the eighth tooth, she said, which is a good thing because it’s still doing fine.

The whole experience “was just unreal,” Jenkins said. “I know they weren’t all bad.”

Melissa Ayer of Fryeburg said she’s suffered for more than a decade because Kippax cut a nerve in her gums while pulling a tooth.

She said that when the Novocain wore off, she realized that the right side of her mouth and part of her face remained numb. When she asked Kippax about it a few days later, she said, he “blew it off like it wasn’t his problem.”

She said he pulled out a waiver she’d signed that he told her relieved him of any legal responsibility if he broke her jaw, cut a nerve or other medical woes that can happen.

Ayer said she never filed a complaint, but she thinks of the incident often because she still can’t feel anything on the right side of her mouth and said part of her tongue feels like it’s constantly attached to a nine-volt battery.

At the time, Ayer said, she thought she’d just been unlucky. “I learned to live with it,” she said.

But reading about what’s happened with other Kippax patients makes her think otherwise. Ayer said she hopes regulators will step in to make sure he doesn’t continue to practice dentistry.

In 2014, Lorraine Dussault of Lewiston said she needed to get a biopsy to help her doctor figure out why she was getting repeated sores on her lips. He referred her to Kippax, she said.

When Kippax looked at her lip, she said, he told her, “Oh, I know what that is,” and instead of taking a biopsy “he just took out his knife and cut off my lip.”

Then, she said, he told her that it was “no problem” because his wife in a downstairs office in the same building does lip enhancements.

Dussault said she didn’t go to his wife or anyone else. She gets by without the inner part of her upper lip, she said.

And the sores? They still come back occasionally, she said, so Kippax’s spur-of-the-moment surgery didn’t help.

Dussault said she thought about suing, but when she asked an attorney, she was told that medical malpractice cases are tough and there’s a risk of getting hit with a substantial bill if the patient loses. So she dropped the idea.

When Ashley Nutter needed a wisdom tooth pulled in 2015, she went to Kippax.

She said she almost left before he did anything because a male patient was “screaming bloody murder” for at least 15 minutes.

But she stayed. Once she got some anesthesia, she said, she remembered nothing until she woke up riding to the grocery store with a friend.

Her mouth was bleeding badly, Nutter said, because Kippax didn’t stitch or glue any wounds and didn’t even provide a piece of gauze. So her friend, after wiping blood off Nutter’s chin, was heading to the store to buy some.

Later, Nutter said, she learned her jaw was broken, too, and now she can’t open her mouth as wide as in the past.

“I hope he loses his license,” she said. “It’s just crazy.”

Heather Tirrell of South Paris went to Kippax in 2012 to have a single bad tooth pulled. But when she woke up from the procedure, she discovered that three of them had been yanked.

She said Kippax never came in to explain what happened or to tell her anything at all.

Now, at age 27,  “I have no back teeth, like an old lady,” Tirrell said. “It was awful.”

Dr. Jan Kippax’s office is at the intersection of Main Street and Mountain Avenue in Lewiston.

“I’m not numbed up at all,” David Grard said he told oral surgeon Jan Kippax, who ignored him, he said. “He had ahold of me and I was screaming like a banshee,” Grard said. From a prone position in the chair, he said, “there’s nothing you can do” except try to get through it.

Filing a complaint

The regulatory body that is supposed to crack the whip on incompetent, dishonest or unethical dentists is the Maine Board of Dental Practice, a nine-member panel that meets regularly on a range of dental issues.

Patients who have a concern about a dentist can file a complaint that is sent to the practitioner, who has 30 days to respond. A copy of the response is passed on to the person who filed the complaint, who can answer it. The information is reviewed by a complaint committee, which can dig deeper if it wants more information.

After evaluating all of the data gathered, the committee makes recommendations to the board to dismiss the complaint, proceed to a negotiated agreement that includes an admission of wrongdoing and penalty, or an adjudicatory hearing.

If it goes to a hearing, which is done in public, an assistant attorney general presents the case against the dental professional by calling witnesses to testify, presenting documentary evidence and other materials. The target of the complaint can also present evidence. Both sides can cross-examine witnesses.

At the close of the hearing the board deliberates and votes on whether or not a violation of the board’s statutes or rules occurred. If the board determines that one or more violations occurred, its members decide on the appropriate sanctions, a decision that can be appealed to a court.

The board is allowed to issue warnings, censures and reprimands. It can suspend or revoke a license and impose a civil penalty of up to $1,500 per violation.

Ashley Nutter of Lewiston after Dr. Jan Kippax pulled a tooth in 2015 and allegedly sent her home without gauze to help stem the blood. Nutter said she later realized her jaw was broken during the procedure.

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