The Washington State Dental Quality Assurance Commission is investigating after a whistleblower complaint accused a local pediatric dental chain of re-using dental tools.
Lisa Walker quit her job as the office manager at the Smiles 4 Kids in the Allenmore B building in Tacoma after she says the dentist overseeing the businesses, Dr. Justin VanBibber, told her to re-use disposable Isolite mouthpieces.
"That we re-use the Isolites, he asked that I put them in the cold sterile and re-use them on patients and I refused," said Lisa Walker.
The Isolite Mouthpiece package is clearly labeled "Disposable. Do not re-use. Re-use can result in the transmission of infections, pathogens."
Isolite mouthpieces are used to keep the airway clear during a dental procedure. "It suctions out the blood, the saliva, pus, tooth decay, you name it -it keeps the airway free of debris," described Walker.
"The worry for my kids and it was my worry for all kids is that, I mean we have hepatitis B, hepatitis C, there's HIV, I mean there's numerous numerous diseases and long-term illnesses that can be contracted through blood."
According to Walker a dental assistant from her office was asked to work at the Kid's Dental location on 6th Avenue in Tacoma and found used Isolite mouthpieces soaking in a cold sterilization solution, others were drying.
When Walker found out, she set up a meeting with the company's compliance officer. "I explained that I felt this was happening in multiple offices, not just the 6th Avenue office," said Walker, " She was stunned -- this is when she said she would take care of it immediately."
Walker waited for a response from Lone Peak Management, which manages the practices, and Dr. Justin VanBibber.
She said she expected to get an email saying this is horrible and shouldn't have been done, instead she said she got an email that went to the office managers in the chain telling them how to deceive the dentists.
Walker filed a complaint with the Dental Quality Assurance Commission against Dr. Justin VanBibber and Lone Peak Management Group. The complaint alleges they instructed Smiles 4 Kids and other pediatric dental practices in the chain, to re-use the disposable Isolite mouthpieces, putting pediatric patients at risk.
KIRO-7 obtained the emails submitted in the complaint.
In an email sent to the office managers at clinics managed by Lone Peak, Dr. VanBibber wrote--
"(The compliance officer) has really screwed me on this one. I agree that we are about to see our supply costs go up. I don't think we want to push this issue with a doctor who is adamant about it."
"Just make her (a different dentist) happy when she is around, then go back to business as usual when she leaves. We should probably hide our opened isolites on the days we know she is coming in."
Walker still refused to re-use Isolite mouthpieces at her location -- but felt she had to do more so she quit and filed a complaint with the state.
According to the complaint there are more than a dozen clinics in Washington tied to Dr. Justin VanBibber and Lone Peak Management.
Walker's dental office saw 50-90 patients a day.
"We're talking thousands and thousands of children," said Walker.
"He chose for use to re-use them over and over again, instead of protecting children. It was about the money."
She says a new mouthpiece is less than $5. The maker of Isolites told KIRO-7 they sell a box of 10 mouthpieces for $25.
Public records show Dr. VanBibber lives in Utah. A condo in VanBibber's name was sold last March in Tukwila.
KIRO-7 asked Dr. VanBibber for an interview, he sent a statement:
"Our practice is committed to providing the highest quality care and patient safety is our top priority. We always use sterilized equipment for all examinations and procedures. The allegations are highly misleading, riddled with inaccuracies and are being raised by a misinformed and disgruntled former employee." - Dr. Justin VanBibber
The Washington State Dental Association is aware of the complaint.
"The concerns brought forward by the whistleblower are deeply troubling and represent a dangerous corporate intrusion in the doctor-patient relationship," said Dr. Chris Delecki, president of the Washington State Dental Association.
While the state investigates, Walker knows what she would do if her child was exposed to a Isolite mouthpiece that wasn't new.
"I just know that if I was a parent I would absolutely take my child to the doctor." said Walker.
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