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RJ Investigates
Dental board's lax oversight fails patients
Painful Mistakes
Does Nevada discipline dentists who injure patients? Our investigation found complaints have climbed, while sanctions have plummeted.
Many say the dental board needs an overhaul.

Painful mistakes: Dental board’s lax oversight fails patients

Updated October 28, 2019 - 8:54 am
Chapter 1
Injured Patients Claim Botched Dental Work. Why didn’t the board revoke licenses?

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he Nevada Board of Dental Examiners repeatedly has failed to revoke or suspend the licenses of Las Vegas dentists accused of injuring patients, a breakdown that state officials have known about since at least 2016, a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation found.

More than 900 complaints have been filed since 2013, but the number of sanctions issued by the board has plunged even as grievances have increased. All but a handful of complaints were dismissed or settled with corrective actions that allowed dentists to continue practicing while undergoing additional training and partially repaying patients.

State law gives the dental board the power to revoke or suspend a license for even one instance of malpractice, professional incompetence or substandard care.

But records show the board almost never revokes or suspends licenses. Patients say the board should not allow Nevada dentists facing serious malpractice claims to continue working.

“I was really messed up,” said Las Vegas patient Ray Galaza, who suffered a stroke after dental surgery. “I was in the hospital for almost three and a half months or so.”

Some patients have been left with years of pain and mounting expenses to fix bad dental work. In interviews and records, they said they had teeth implanted into infected bone. Implants allegedly failed after surgery, or veneers were improperly positioned, causing cavities.

One patient alleges he suffered serious and debilitating injuries when an infection traveled to his brain after not being treated with antibiotics. A dentist accidentally drilled a hole through the side of a man’s tooth during a root canal and tried to conceal the mistake, court records claim.

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Patients reveal the impact of failed dental work



Chapter 2
Dental patient: “There was nothing but pain and suffering.”

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as Vegas dentist Troy J. Trobough has been the subject of Nevada Board of Dental Examiners actions for alleged problems with three patients – and has been sued twice, records show.

Joann Cappellano said she still has pain from her dental work. Photo courtesy of Cappellano.
Joann Cappellano said she still has pain from her dental work. Photo courtesy of Cappellano.

In 2015, Trobough couldn’t complete a root canal on Jo Ann Cappellano and just put a crown on the tooth without fixing the underlying issue, according to a board investigator finding cited in public records. The investigator also found Trobough failed to secure a bridge in her mouth, which dislodged.

Cappellano, 70, who recently moved from Nevada to Georgia to be with family, said she still has pain because the bridge does not fit. She is not happy the board allowed Trobough to keep his license.

“After I closed and finished with my (complaint), I though they were going to take his license away,” she said. “I couldn’t believe he was still working. I don’t understand that.”

Screenshot from the web of dentist Troy J. Trobough
Screenshot from the web of dentist Troy J. Trobough

Trobough is one of at least a dozen Clark County dentists who have had repeated actions or lawsuits but continue to practice with active licenses, a Review-Journal investigation found. Through interviews with more than a dozen patients, the Review-Journal found allegations that mistakes by the dentists caused patients pain and cost some of them thousands of dollars to repair the damage.

Board staff repeatedly have refused to discuss specific dentists or their investigative process. Trobough and his attorney did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

Trobough also did not fix cavities before cementing veneers on Patti Sue Kramer’s teeth, and the veneers were improperly positioned, causing other cavities to occur, a board investigator alleged in a corrective action stipulation.

The dentist, who has been licensed in Nevada since 1995 after graduating from a private school in California, also cemented poorly fitting crowns on Maurice Deveau’s mouth and improperly placed a bridge, according to a board investigator. Deveau could not be reached for comment.

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Chapter 3
DENTAL BOARD BENEFITING ITSELF, NOT PATIENTS, RECORDS SHOW

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evada’s dental board members have faced allegations of conflicts of interest, illegally required dentists to contribute to nonprofits with ties to board members and failed to investigate complaints against the board’s own president, a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation found.

The allegations, detailed in audits, public records and complaints, so outraged Gov. Steve Sisolak that he directed the Nevada Board of Dental Examiners, whose members he appoints, to undergo training by the Nevada Commission on Ethics.

“I don’t know where to begin, but I’m not happy the way this turned out. I’m not at all happy the way it turned out,” Sisolak told dental board general counsel Melanie Bernstein Chapman at a June meeting about the agency’s recent audit.

Sisolak said the findings were the most egregious he has seen in 20 years of public service. His staff declined interview requests about the board.

The board has maintained that staff and board members have done nothing wrong and that the controversy has been fostered by a small group of dentists who want to avoid regulation. The governor-appointed, 11-person board is made up of seven dentists, three hygienists and a citizen with no ties to dental practice.

In a brief phone interview, Chapman declined to discuss the ethics charges or the board’s critics.

“As much as they have violated our rights and been defamatory against us, I’m not going to do that to them,” she said. “They have confidentiality, even when they are telling stories.”

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Vegas woman claims dental board president tried to overcharge her

Chapter 4
LONGTIME DENTAL FEUD SPARKS STATE INVESTIGATION

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ears of bad blood between the Las Vegas Dental Association and the Nevada Board of Dental Examiners has sparked audits, ethics actions and criticism of the board by top state leaders.

Many of the issues the LVDA uncovered raise legitimate questions about ethical conflicts and how money is spent, but some of the association’s accusations are impossible to prove or are demonstratively false.

LVDA Executive Director Adrian Ruiz, who opened a practice in Nevada 15 years ago, has led the fight against the dental board, which he says is controlled by the Nevada Dental Association, a rival professional group. NDA President R. Michael Sanders is a dental board member, and Ruiz said he protects his fellow association members from discipline while targeting people don’t join the NDA.

Sanders did not respond to requests for comment.

The dental board is a government agency that licenses and disciplines dentists. The LVDA and NDA are nonprofit professional groups that try to maintain the standard of care and promote dental education.

Ruiz personally has faced three investigations from the board.

“The way the board is set up here is very corrupt,” he said in a phone interview. “I never had any problems with the board in California.”

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Alexandrina Barin sought estimates for treatment in 2017 from the former president of the denta ...
Alexandrina Barin sought estimates for treatment in 2017 from the former president of the dental board, Byron Blasco. Barin, who has connections to board critics, later filed a complaint saying he tried to overcharge her. (Erik Verduzco / Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Erik_Verduzco
Chapter 5
THIS PATIENT COMPLAINED. THE DENTAL BOARD FILED A RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST HIM

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he Nevada Board of Dental Examiners violated open meeting law when it cut off Henderson resident David Harold Moore during a March 2018 public comment session — and then doubled down by filing a restraining order against him.

A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation found several instances of the board violating open meeting law and failing to make important policy decisions in public. The action against Moore was one of those examples and prompted Gov. Steve Sisolak to direct the board to change its ways.

“I’m going to ask you to ask for help from the attorney general’s office in terms of open meeting law,” he told board general counsel Melanie Bernstein Chapman at a June meeting about the agency’s most recent audit. “They’re all supposed to have read the open meeting law.”

State law requires public agencies to have comment periods and specifically says officials can’t “restrict comments based upon viewpoint.”

Richard Karpel, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, said the public’s comments at meetings make government responsive to taxpayers’ needs. “Cutting people off based on the content of their statements, like the Dental Board has a habit of doing, is a direct assault on that law,” Karpel said.

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Henderson man blasts the state’s agency that regulates dentists

Chapter 6
HOW TO CHECK YOUR DENTIST’S BACKGROUND, OR FILE A COMPLAINT

How to check your dentist’s background

How to file a complaint against a Nevada dentist

Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Kane is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing. Support our journalism.

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