Local dentist’s license in jeopardy

• Homer dentist faces multiple accusations of substandard care after patients file complaints
By Hannah Heimbuch
Homer Tribune

Following the investigation of several formal complaints, Alaska’s Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing made a recommendation to “suspend, revoke, or impose other disciplinary sanctions against the dental license” of Homer’s David Eugene Nelson, DDS.
According to a public accusation document filed by Chief Investigator Quinten Warren, Nelson is accused of allegedly performing medical procedures – namely dental implants – that did not conform to Alaska’s minimum standards of professional dentistry.
The accusation document, filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings on referral by the Alaska Board of Dental Examiners, lists three separate counts identified by the initials, K.F., C.O. and P. A.
One of those complaints belongs to Homer’s Penelope Anderson, who first sought dental care from Nelson in 2008.
Over the course of several procedures, Anderson received a sinus lift, a bone graft and four dental implants.
A dental implant is a device fused into the bone that acts as an anchor for a crown, bridge, denture or other dental prosthetic.
“The real trouble started in early 2012 when I went to Dr. Nelson complaining of an infection,” Anderson said. “He put me on antibiotics, so I was not too concerned.”
Her infection returned with more severe symptoms, and after several months, she was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist for a CT scan to examine the infection.
Anderson was very nervous at the time, concerned that this worsening infection would inhibit her ability to care for her disabled daughter.
“My efforts to clear up the sinus infection were not working,” she said. “I made an appointment with Dr. Nelson. In his examination, he acknowledged a problem, but said in no way would the implants have to be removed.”
Anderson said Nelson called later, after reviewing her information, to say some implants would have to come out, but he wouldn’t know how many until he had started the procedure.
“I had already sought a second opinion,” Anderson said. “He (second opinion) made immediate arrangements for me to be seen by (a doctor at South Peninsula Hospital), who determined I needed to have surgery to clean out the gunk in my sinus, and recommended removal of the implants.”
According to the state report, the treatment plan Nelson established for Anderson wasn’t appropriate, because there was not enough bone to support the implants. He then allegedly failed to recognize that the procedure wasn’t working, and continued on a treatment plan that ended, ultimately, with a severe sinus infection and additional surgery to remove the implants.
“He did not adequately represent the nature of the treatment or his ability to provide the treatment properly,” the accusation document reads.
Following surgery to remove the implants, Anderson tested positive for eight different kinds of gut flora, which her doctor told her indicated a dental problem.
“All told, the experience cost me over $23,000,” Anderson said. “It’s been a little over a year, and I recently saw an implant specialist clinic in Bellevue, Wash. For $18,000, they could repeat the process of sinus lift, bone graft, three implants or – plan B – for $24,000, they could remove all the healthy teeth from my upper jaw and attach four implants on which to hang a set of upper dentures.”
Despite these options, Anderson said there is concern that her sinus membrane is still perforated, which would put her at risk for infection again.
Homer resident Pete Fineo is not named in the accusation, but has also filed complaint paperwork regarding care he received at Nelson’s practice. Fineo first visited Nelson’s office four years ago to have a three-tooth bridge replaced.
Fineo said he ended up with a dental implant and a crown on either side. When one of the crowns fell out almost immediately, Fineo said several attempts were made to keep it in place – which required grinding down the tooth a little each time. Then, Fineo said there wasn’t enough tooth left to support a new crown.
Nelson then allegedly recommended the tooth be pulled and an implant put in – which he eventually did. Following this course of treatment, and before it was time to put crowns on the implants, Fineo said he left Nelson’s care due to an administrative disagreement.
Because of the disagreement, he sought the care of another Homer dentist to put in the crowns that would top the implants.
“He takes X-rays and, low and behold, he says these implants were put in incorrectly,” Fineo said. “They should have never been put in the first place.”
According to Fineo, a second opinion from a dental surgeon in Wasilla produced the same information – that he should never have had implants put in an area with insufficient bone to support them.
Fineo’s options at that point were to remove the implants and go through a bone augmentation procedure that would support new implants, or get the crowns put on and see if they held. He opted for the later.
Fineo said this left him with two implants by Nelson with not enough bone to support them, two crowns on top of them by another dentist, and one remaining crown from Nelson.
“After I had the implants, I filed a complaint with the Alaska Board of Dental Examiners,” Fineo said.
According to a mid-December letter to Fineo from a board investigator, the accusation document may still be amended to include his and other complaints as investigation on those counts conclude.
“In a perfect world, there are two things I’d like to see happen,” Fineo said. “I’d like to get my money back so I can get repair work, and I’d like to see Nelson lose his license.”
Anderson is looking for similar actions.
“I would like to see Dr. Nelson repay all the money to the patients he victimized,” Anderson said. “If he repaid me, I could then pursue a remedy for my dental problem.”
In addition to punitive damages regarding Nelson’s dental licensing, Anderson said she would like the Board of Dental Examiners to be more proactive when licensing for certain procedures, in order to prevent these situations from happening in the first place.
“The surgery Dr. Nelson performed on me, and the placement of implants into my sinus cavity, was quite complex and dangerous,” Anderson said. “The implants were doomed to fail, because they never had a chance just hanging into an open cavity.”
Out of sensitivity to the ongoing investigation, members of the Alaska Board of Dental Examiners and state investigators were unable to comment on the details of the case, beyond those already available in the public documentation.
“In all dental board complaints alleging substandard patient care, two licensed members of the board review all of the records and information compiled during this preliminary stage and the division relies on their expertise to determine if violations occurred,” wrote Special Assistant to the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Leslye Langla in an email.
“If a violation is substantiated, the division and a reviewing board member determine the appropriate disciplinary action,” she explained. “This is based on the seriousness of the violations, a history of board disciplinary action and other mitigating and aggravating factors.”
The accusation document, filed after the above-mentioned evaluations, concludes with the following recommendation:
“The Division respectfully requests that the Board revoke or suspend Nelson’s license to practice dentistry, or impose other lawful sanctions to his license that the Board deems appropriate.”
It also cites Alaska Statute 08.36.317, which states, “The board may impose a civil fine not to exceed $25,000 for each violation of this chapter.”
Attempts to reach Dr. Nelson for comment were unsuccessful. However, Nelson filed a Notice of Defense on Dec. 17 through his defense firm, Clapp, Peterson, Tiemessen, Thorsness and Johnson, LLC. The firm has offices in both Anchorage and Fairbanks, and professional licensing law is one of their advertised specialties.
The firm requested a hearing regarding the accusations filed.
Fineo said there is still opportunity for others to log their own concerns.
“Any of Nelson’s patients who feel they may have received questionable dental treatment can contact the State of Alaska Professional Licensing Investigative unit at (907) 269-8437 to discuss their concerns,” he said.

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Posted by on Jan 7th, 2014 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

23 Responses for “Local dentist’s license in jeopardy”

  1. Kent Haina says:

    I had an implant procedure performed by Dr. Nelson last year, and I’m quite happy with it.

    • Terry Reed says:

      Kent, come back in a year or two, and tell us how you feel then!

      • Kent Haina says:

        I definitely will Terry!

        • Fred J says:

          Many substandard dental procedures take one to four years before the patient becomes aware of a problem. If there is any question in the care that was given by nelson it is a simple matter to have another dentist look at your xrays and offer an opinion. I hope yours was put in properly and give many years of service. If it wasn’t you are in for an expensive and painful repair procedure as was described in the Tribune article. Good luck Kent!

  2. My husband and I have had several procedures done by Dr David Nelson over the past 7 years, and have been very satisfied with the results of his work. I do believe his charges are on the high side, but his work was excellent! We are shocked by the Tribune article, we realize that in all health matters there are risks and failures. We certainly have been happy and pleased with his work, and believe that he is very conscientious, highly skilled, and competent, and appears to us to have a very high moral and work ethic!

  3. Cassie & Justin Ford says:

    We both worked for Dr. Nelson and believe he is honestly a good Doctor I do on the other hand think his wife plays a big part of any bad judgment as she is the ring leader and would boss him around.

  4. AKgrown says:

    It’s about time!! In 25 years I have seen every dentist in Homer, as well as several up North. I have never, in my life, been so disgusted by a dentist, his wife, and his practice. I have yet to hear any first hand stories about his practice that did not turn into a complete disaster, never mind the fraudulent billing and the borderline certifiable wife/business partner. Way to go dental board!! Revoke that license!!

  5. Sallie Dodd Butters says:

    I KNEW there were too many Dentists in this tiny town ! Weed ‘em out!

    • Cubbug says:

      Sally, it’s not that there are too many dentists in this little town, it’s the gouging the the uninsured must suffer!. Heck, I don’t mind going to the dentist, but after getting a filling or even a root canal done, I just don’t want to have to look at being bankrumpt after I get billed (aka screwed) after a 1 hour ‘procedure’.

  6. zbarbarelli says:

    There is a lot more going on than improper procedures; there are a huge number of cases pertaining to improper billing practices. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Often a professional can do somethings right but here we have a pile of wrongs that keep adding up. There’s also problems with his wife and her behavior in his office. That appeared to us to be the biggest problem in the office.

  7. Dee Weiser says:

    They tried to add a $450 procedure that didn’t happen to see if the insurance would cover it, after it was denied I asked his wife / receptionist what is was and in her phony way said ” Well since you only have $1500 in dental and they didn’t cover this we will just take it off “. Later I did the numbers and discovered they clearly owed me $130 that I had over paid before the insurance settled. She tried to deny it even though it was plainly in black and white and she cut me a check anyway. When I switched dentists she wouldn’t give me my Xrays, claiming they never charged me for them because, once again, she was so concerned over my low dental coverage they did Xrays out of the goodness of their hearts. Very phony operation.

    • Fred J says:

      Not giving you your X-rays is a violation of federal law under the HIPAA act . You have a right to access your medical records and get copies at reasonable fee. If nelson gives you a hard time you can get help from the Office of Civil Rights by calling 1-800-368-1019.

      If you don’t have a copy of your records you might want to get them soon because nelson is attempting to sell his business. See the add on craigslist: http://anchorage.craigslist.org/off/4271044237.html

      Oddly his office doesn’t have a “for sale” sign in front, the real estate company is in Soldotna, and the craigslist ad is for Anchorage. Kinda makes you think he doesn’t want the folks in Homer to know he is leaving. Of course the moving van next to his office in December was a giveaway. nelson hasn’t been seen around town in weeks and the word is he has left the state for good. So if you haven’t gotten your records yet…

  8. Thanksforthewarning says:

    At little too late for some of us. The Stste came to me asking for my records to be opened. They tell me i have no chance of getting any money back or my teeth. He tells me one thing his wife wanted cash then get my money back from the insurance vo but i cant have a bill or any piece of paper.

    • Fred J says:

      Sorry to hear of your problems. You could call 1-907-269-4946 and talk to the state dental investigator. She might be able to take a complaint or at least suggest where you can get some help. Also you might check with the gov office mentioned above to get a copy of your records. They should include billing information to file insurance claims (1-800-368-1019). Hope you get some help.

  9. Fred J says:

    Give the state investigator a call and let her know ! 1-907-269-4946

  10. homer local says:

    yes, these folks are no good. the wife tried to take $1000 from me, and the dentist botched an implant that got infected then tried to cover it up.

  11. Homer local says:

    Hannah. Please look into past cities they have worked.

  12. HomerAK gal says:

    Some people on this post are making allegations based solely on their bad experience with Dr Nelson and aren’t taking into consideration his impeccable credentials. Homerites are smarter than that.
    For example Dr. Nelson states he was “named one of America’s Top Dentists by the Consumers’ Research Council of America. (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)” Pretty impressive claim that got him a lot of patients. Here is a piece on that esteemed organization:
    And what does Dr Nelson and a dachshund named Max Tailwager have in common ? (spoiler alert! They both received the same award) Read this : http://www.forbes.com/2009/05/15/americas-top-financial-planners-dog-personal-finance-consumers-research-council.html
    Now why would a medical professional like Dr Nelson with decades worth of experience make these claims? Those X patients making disparaging remarks about this fine Homer dentist should reconsider. Do Homerites want to believe their lying eyes or Dr Nelson’s advertising?

  13. HomerAK gal says:

    I read my last post and have to apologize for my unfair remarks. This extraordinary Homer dentist has other awards that should have been mentioned.
    Dr Nelson’s prestigious awards include those from “Talk of the Town” and “Top Three Dentists. Are they real or” pay-for-honors?” Homerites are smarter than the average bear and can do their own homework. Google the sites and make your own decision.

  14. Bill says:

    i had a the same kinda problem with implants but after reading the the article and posts called the investigator angela in anchorage. she is going to mail me a complaint package to tell my story. u might want to do the same so something can be done about this guy and his wife. her number 907-269-4946

  15. erik says:

    Finally! Justice! Luann offered to fix my wife’s tooth (root canal) in 2008 even though we had no money or insurance and she knew that. After getting a bunch of work done that was not required she assured my wife it would be ok that we couldn’t pay. Lo and behold a staggering bill shows up in the mail! When i asked about it Luann screamed at me and said i need to pay in full and they do not take payments! I physically went to the office with one hundred dollar bill which was alot for us at the time and attempted to pay on the account. More yelling and unprofessional behavior… she sent us to collections immediately and dinged our credit. Had we known her “generous” offer was just to rush us in and get money on the books we would have just had my wife’s tooth pulled at another location.
    Get these dishonest people out of Homer!

  16. Chelsea A. says:

    I had a wisdom tooth extraction at Dr. Nelson’s office last year.
    It was the most miserable experience of my life. I was told the procedures
    usually last about 30 maybe even less seeing as I only needed 2 extracted,
    and that I wouldn’t feel a thing! Wrong. The procedure lasted 4 agonizing hours.
    4 hours of digging, yanking on my jaw FULLY conscious. I cried and told him it was
    hurting me, I begged him IN TEARS to give me something to help the pain and was given a small amount of N02 (otherwise known as laughing gas) which dulled my misery, NOT the pain for a very short amount of time before I was again sobbing begging him to get away from me.
    A few weeks later I went back because of swelling and pain on my lower jaw and was told that he “accidentally” left bone fragments inside the wounds which was causing the pain.
    Needless to say this man should DEFINITELY have his license revoked!!
    I do not recommend his service to anyone for any purpose.
    Worst experience I have ever dealt with this guy is a shmuck.

  17. Live here says:

    Does anybody believe that the state would frivolously remove the license of a professional based on unsubstantiated information?Could there be more going on than this story reveals? Should we think about these two questions before dismissing and further victimizing any of those who have so far come forward?

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