BRUNSWICK — Shortly after Christmas in 2014, Donna Deigan reluctantly found herself in a dental chair in the Lewiston office of oral surgeon Jan Kippax after her dentist sent her to him to figure out why she was hurting.

The memory of what happened next still haunts her 26 months later.

She went in complaining of pain on the upper right side of her mouth, but Kippax barely listened, Deigan said. He brushed aside her anxiety and refused to give her anesthesia to knock her out for the procedure, something dentists had been doing for her for decades.

Moving quickly, she said, Kippax instead gave her Novocaine but didn’t wait for it to kick in at all before he started working on her teeth.

“It felt like he was ripping everything out of my mouth,” Deigan said, as if he “was digging something way down inside” of her.

Screaming and crying, she begged him to stop as blood poured from her mouth, but Kippax “blew it off” and kept going, she said.

Deigan called the pain unbelievable and “absolutely ridiculous.”

By the time it was over, Kippax had yanked one of her lower front teeth, which didn’t help with the pain that sent her to him, and shattered her self-worth.

“I was tortured,” Deigan said. 

Unlike other former patients who have come forward, Deigan ultimately filed a formal complaint with the Maine Board of Dental Practice, the first of what became a list of 18 people to ask the board to look into Kippax.

The nine-member panel took action against the 57-year-old Kippax last month, suspending his license to practice and setting a March 10 hearing to determine what, if any, discipline it should impose on him. It is possible the board will strip him of his ability to work as a dentist in Maine.

The board’s chairwoman, Dr. Geraldine Schneider, an Auburn dentist, said in a Feb. 15 letter to Kippax’s attorney that the oral surgeon’s “failure to treat patients in a manner worthy of society’s trust have put the health and safety of his patients and staff in immediate jeopardy” and that if he “is allowed to continue to practice in his reckless and harmful way, innocent patients are destined to continue to suffer dire consequences.”

Since the panel’s preliminary action, the Sun Journal has spoken with more than a dozen former patients who have complained of mistreatment by Kippax that included removing the wrong teeth, failing to provide pain medication, slicing a nerve, breaking a jaw and displaying a cavalier attitude toward the difficulties that plague often low-income people trying to get treatment from him.

Clinton Delano of Peru said this week that his brain-damaged, elderly brother went to Kippax a decade ago to have a tooth removed but wound up having all of them yanked out for no reason. The 91-year-old called Kippax “a butcher.”

Neither Kippax nor his lawyer has returned phone calls. Kippax hung up on a reporter who sought comment from him.

In the board’s notice of hearing, Deigan is identified only as “D.D.” who filed what it called “Complaint 16-38” sometime in early 2016.

After an investigation, the board determined that Kippax treated her between Dec. 29, 2014, and Jan. 7, 2015, and allegedly committed nine transgressions worth noting, including performing extractions without proper consent, continuing a “painful dental procedure” despite a patient instructing him to stop or expressing distress and failing to keep proper records for consult with her referring dentist.

The dry language of the hearing report doesn’t catch the sorrow and anger that Deigan expresses.

Her first words to a reporter who came to talk to her about her experience were that Kippax “made it so that I never smile” because she’s so wounded by the unnecessary gap in her front teeth.

“My self-esteem is crappy,” Deigan said, because she views the missing tooth as a symbol of what she sees as an attack on her self-worth. She said if she had the money, she might be able to get a bridge or an implant, but that’s impossible for her financially.

Though the board has declined to discuss how it conducts investigations or to explain why it took many months before it took what it called an emergency measure to suspend Kippax’s license, Deigan’s complaint sheds some light on the sequence of what happened.

To begin with, though it appears Deigan saw Kippax late in 2014, she didn’t actually file the complaint until 2016. It appears that the first of the 18 complaints under consideration was submitted early in 2016, citing treatments that stretched back more than a year.

After Deigan submitted her complaint, Kippax was given a chance to respond to it. Deigan then had the opportunity to answer Kippax’s answer, a document she sent in July 2016 that included an apology for taking so long because she’d been dealing with the death of her mother in Ohio.

From Deigan’s response to what Kippax wrote, it appears that Kippax explained that she had come in complaining of pain and he had acted accordingly. He apparently refused to put her under because she was taking other medicine that he thought might interact with the anesthesia. He also apparently called the tooth extraction “simple.”

In a letter Deigan received last month from the board, there’s an indication that copies were also sent to an unnamed assistant attorney general, a complaint officer, the board’s executive director and a board investigator, a list that provides a general sense of who might have been involved in probing the complaints against Kippax.

Deigan said she feels like she has post-traumatic stress disorder from her ordeal. There are times she gets flashbacks and all she can think about is “what he did to me.”

Deigan said she’s convinced that Kippax has scorn for his mostly low-income patients, many of them on MaineCare, as she was, and doesn’t treat them with the dignity and respect he should.

She said he brushed aside her concerns and failed to show any compassion for her suffering when she came in seeking help.

“He’s got to be stopped,” Deigan said. “It’s important that nobody else become a victim of his.”

“I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve gone through,” she said.

The hearing that will decide what, if any, discipline the board wants to impose on Kippax will be held at 8 a.m. Friday, March 10, at the board’s 161 Capitol St. office in Augusta.

Donna Deigan, a former patient of Dr. Jan Kippax, shows the gap he left when he allegedly pulled the wrong tooth from her mouth more than two years ago.

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