Fifty-four-year-old Dan O’Neal of Mill Creek says that in the construction business, your work is your reputation.
"People expect quality out of me; I expect quality out of them,” said O’Neal.
O'Neal thought he was getting quality work from his family dentist—Dr. Henri Duyzend.
"All the way from my front teeth, all the way across the front is all root canalled,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal pointed out 12 of his front teeth that did not get root canals. He said Duyzend did root canals on the rest---20 total.
“I was thinking it was just normal business and that’s what I needed done to keep my teeth,” O’Neal said.
That changed when Duyzend retired in 2007 and sold his Shoreline practice.
According to a sworn affidavit, the new dentist was alarmed by the large number of root canals Henri Duyzend had performed. After reviewing x-rays and patient charts, that dentist concluded Duyzend had done “fraudulent root canals on almost every patient in the practice” and that many were done poorly.
More than 200 patients have filed malpractice claims against Duyzend. The State Department of Health said 62 of those cases settled and were reported to them by the dentist’s malpractice insurance carrier. There are more than a hundred pending.
Dr. Fred Quarnstrom is a Seattle dentist who served on the Washington State Dental Quality Assurance Commission for 4 years. He was hired by a group of Duyzend’s patients to review their charts.
"The fewest number of root canals was 23, the largest number was one lady with 29 root canals,” Quarnstrom said.
According to Quarnstrom, a root canal is usually needed when a tooth dies. Quarnstrom believes many of the teeth Duyzend worked on were healthy.
"I think it’s obscene. A lot of people had a lot of damage done, spent a phenomenal amount of money for dentistry that wasn’t needed,” Quartnstrom said.
If that’s true, then how did Duyzend get away with it for so long?
KING 5 obtained his file from the State Department of Health, which oversees dentists.
It shows that Duyzend started practicing in 1977.
In 1994, a married couple reported Duyzend for “doing unnecessary work.”
In 1995, a patient complained that the dentist had left a “broken needle tip lodged in the root of a tooth.”
The Health Department took no action.
“What we have to look at is the ability to meet a legal threshold. If we can’t meet that legal threshold, then we’re unfortunately left with no alternative but to close the case,” said Blake Maresh, Executive Director, Office of Health Professions and Facilities for the State Department of Health.
Thirteen years later, more patients complained but by then Duyzend had retired.
Still, the Health Department investigated and in 2010, they cut a deal with the dentist.
"Ultimately we were able to negotiate a settlement by which he surrendered his license and he will never practice again in the State of Washington," said Maresh.
Maresh said that revoking Duyzend’s license would have taken longer and during that time he could have resumed his practice, so a “voluntary surrender” was the best way to protect the public.
"He will never practice again in this state and we were able to do it quickly and effectively," said Maresh.
But through the entire process, Duyzend admitted no wrongdoing and still doesn’t. He wouldn’t talk to KING 5, but his Seattle attorney, John Versnel III, did.
Asked if Dr. Duyzend did unnecessary work on patients, Versnel said “Absolutely not.”
Asked if Dr. Duyzend did bad dentistry, Versnel said, “You know, he didn’t.”
If that’s the case, Dan O’Neal said he would like to know why he’s undergoing painful fixes on the teeth Duyzend treated. “Pretty much messed ‘em up real bad,” said O’Neal.
"I think he should just plain lose his license because he hurt a lot of people,” said O’Neal.
The State Department of Health received a total of 71 complaints against Duyzend, but most of them came in after Duyzend had retired and after he had agreed to the voluntary surrender of his license.
Maresh said the Health Department wants people to know that if you don’t complain, they don’t investigate.
“We have over 350,000 credential holders in the state, so really, what we have to do is rely on complaints that we receive from members of the public, from other providers, from insurance companies, from a variety of sources to make sure that if untoward things are happening, that we can investigate,” said Maresh.
If you do file a complaint, Maresh said you have to allow investigators access to your dental records or the case won’t be pursued.