An oral surgeon in New Jersey has agreed to a five year suspension of his license after 15 patients contracted the bacterial heart infection endocarditis at his office. The oral surgeon also agreed to pay $243,500 in penalties and $50,000 in costs totaling $293,500, to resolve the State of New Jersey’s allegations that he exposed his patients to the risk of contracting endocarditis due to his failure to follow proper infection control procedures at this office. Twelve of the fifteen patients who contracted endocarditis required subsequent surgery and one died as a result of the bacterial heart infection.
The investigation into the oral surgeon’s practice began after a 25 year old man was diagnosed with endocarditis about five weeks after having two of his wisdom teeth extracted in June 2014. Specifically the New Jersey Department of Health officials and Enforcement Bureau investigators with the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry performed an inspection of the oral surgeons office in November 2014. Certain deficiencies related to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State of New Jersey Dental Board regulations were identified; however, the oral surgeon was allowed to continue to practice. A second inspection was performed at the oral surgeons office in January 2015, which identified that many of the deficiencies found in the first inspection related to infection control protocols had been addressed, yet some deficiencies remained. After the second inspection the oral surgeon was again allowed to continue to practice. In early July 2016, the oral surgeon agreed to maintain enhanced infection control protocols along with the submission of monthly reports as a result of three patients that had contracted endocarditis from his office. In late July 2016, the New Jersey Department of Health issued a report that identified fifteen patients that had contracted endocarditis at the oral surgery office over a two year period. In August 2016, a third inspection was performed by the New Jersey Department of Health and the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry which found continued deficiencies with following proper infection control protocols at the oral surgery office. Shortly after the third inspection, the oral surgeon had his license temporarily suspended. The fifteen patients whom contracted endocarditis were likely infected during the use of IVs to sedate patients before surgery.
The State of New Jersey argued the oral surgeon engaged in professional misconduct and gross negligence leading to endangerment of patient lives by his repeated breaches of infection control practices set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State of New Jersey Dental Board regulations. The State of New Jersey said the alleged breaches included improper handling and storage of single dose medication vials, a failure to use sterile water or sterile saline during surgical procedures, non-sterile preparation of instruments, and improper handling and disposal of needles and syringes.
The oral surgeon had been waiting until his case was resolved after his temporary suspension and appeared in a hearing before an Adminstrative Law Judge. The terms of his suspension are retroactive to the end of August 2016 and he is now serving a one year probationary period until the end of August 2020. Prior to resuming practice (if he were to attempt to do so), the oral surgeon must successfully complete New Jersey State Board of Dentistry approved courses in record-keeping, office management, and infection control procedures, practices, implementation, and maintenance and further must complete an ethics course for medical professionals. He must also demonstrate his fitness and competency to resume dental practice.
It is also noted that the oral surgeon spent years denying any breaches in infection control practices at his office lead to the bacterial infections of the heart contracted by fifteen of his patients. The oral surgeon agreed to settle the case under the terms contained in a Final Consent Order approved by the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry.
1. New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, “Morris County Oral Surgeon Agrees to 5-Year License Suspension to Resolve Allegations that His Breach of Infection Control Protocols Exposed Patients to ‘Bacterial Endocarditis’ Heart Infection,” https://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/News/Pages/02032020.aspx February 3, 2020.
2. NBC 4 New York, “New Jersey Dentist Agrees to Suspension After 15 Patients Get Sick, 1 Dies,” https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/new-jersey-dentist-agrees-to-suspension-after-15-patients-get-sick-1-dies/2277627/ February 4, 2020.