Dental Assistant Turns in Dentist for Unsanitary Conditions

Dental Assistant Turns in Dentist for Unsanitary Conditions

Dentists and dental assistants work hand in hand, relying heavily on each other every day, but a case in Iowa highlights what can happen when that atmosphere of cooperation and civility disintegrates. Dental assistant Pamela Gibson had worked for Urbandale dentist Jay Buckley for 16 years, but apparently the relationship became increasingly strained between the two in the latter stages of her employment, triggered at least in part by disagreements over the unsanitary nature of his practices.

Reportedly, Buckley would sometimes simply wash his disposable gloves between patients rather than throw them away. Additionally, he at times failed to sterilize his equipment properly and wouldn’t give Gibson and his other staff enough time between patients to sufficiently clean examination rooms. Gibson became so appalled that she took her concerns to the Iowa Dental Board last year, even recording some of their conversations as evidence.

In July, the Board found Buckley guilty, saying he “repeatedly and willfully failed to maintain safety and sanitary conditions in his dental practice.” The Board fined Buckley $5,000, gave him five years probation, ordered infection-control training for himself and his staff and required that another dentist monitor his practice.

Buckley denies all charges. His side of the story is that Gibson is a bitter former employee who was fired for “insubordination and misconduct” (including wearing inappropriate clothing) and that she has a vendetta against him. The dental assistant claims that she was fired last year when Buckley found out that she’d reported him to the Dental Board. She has since sued him for wrongful termination, a case that is still pending. The dentist claims that he didn’t know that she’d reported him until after he fired her.

The Board has previously punished Buckley on two separate occasions: in 2000 and 2009, for failure to explain treatments to patients, fraudulent fees and for failing to use proper infection-control practices.

The Buckley-Gibson saga reminds us how important it is not only to maintain proper sanitary conditions in a dental office, but also how crucial it is to have a good working relationship between a dentist and a dental assistant. As you can see, things can spiral downward quickly when that partnership deteriorates, and chances are both sides will end up getting hurt.

(Source: De Moines Register)