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License suspended for Anchorage dentist accused of Medicaid fraud, 'unlawful dental acts'

Anchorage dentist Seth Lookhart, right, confers with his attorney, Michael Moberly, at his bail hearing with District Court judge Jennifer Henderson on April 19. (Laurel Andrews / Alaska Dispatch News)

Citing "a clear and immediate danger" to public health and safety, the Alaska Board of Dental Examiners suspended Anchorage dentist Seth Lookhart's license on Thursday while an investigation continues into his patient care.

Online records show that Lookhart's license to practice dentistry and a separate permit to practice intravenous sedation were both suspended that day.

License suspension has a "very high hurdle" that arises from "demonstrable risk to public safety," said Angela Birt, chief investigator for the Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing.

Lookhart can appeal the suspension, which is temporary pending the ongoing investigation, Birt said.

The board's investigation is separate from an ongoing criminal investigation. Lookhart faces 17 charges of Medicaid fraud and "unlawful dental acts," centered around accusations that he unnecessarily sedated patients in order to boost profits at his dental clinic.

The criminal charges were filed mid-April. Birt said Lookhart's license was not suspended until Thursday because investigators needed to gather evidence.

"Part of that is the balance between public safety, and the balance between protection and due process rights," Birt said.

Some of the accusations mirror those in the criminal charging documents, but some new allegations are outlined in the accusation filed Thursday.

Lookhart is accused of using intravenous sedation on a minor without a parent's consent for a cleaning, fillings and sealants, which is not the standard of care for these procedures. In another instance, Lookhart is accused of pulling more teeth than authorized and providing faulty dentures to a patient. The patient went to a second dentist and underwent oral surgery for bone removal and denture fabrication, services Lookhart billed for but did not provide, the state alleges.

Lookhart also faces allegations of allowing unlicensed assistants who did not have a sedation permit to administer anesthetics.

The allegations also say that when investigators subpoenaed patient records, the files were missing documents. Employees, including Lookhart, said they could not access patients' files, the accusation says.

"We didn't see evidence of full compliance," Birt said of requests to gather records.

Should Lookhart appeal, he would go to an administrative hearing judge, who would make a recommendation to the dental board. The board has the final say as to whether to reinstate his license, Birt said.

When the investigation is completed, the board will decide how to proceed. It has about 50 options to choose from, Birt said, including license revocation, probation, requiring additional training, fines or limitations to his practice.

Birt said the amount of time the investigation takes will depend on how many patient complaints the state receives.

The last dentist to have his or her license suspended was Troy Burns in 2013, Birt said. Online records show that Burns, who was a dentist out of North Pole, surrendered his license and no longer practices in Alaska.

Calls to Lookhart and the attorney representing him in his criminal case were not returned on Friday afternoon. A hearing in Lookhart's criminal case is set for Tuesday.

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