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Newton dentist fined by Iowa Dental Board, placed on probation

Benson refutes allegations; fighting in court deemed too costly

The Iowa Dental Board has fined a Newton dentist for illegally delegating certain procedures to an unauthorized assistant, placing his license in a probationary status for two years, according to documents provided Wednesday to the Daily News.

Dr. Robert Benson, who operates a dental practice on the courthouse square in Newton, was accused in September of 2011 of allowing a dental assistant to perform duties which were beyond the “legal scope of practice.” Section 20.3(2)e of the Iowa Code outlines the limitations on services provided by dental assistants.

Specifically, with regard to allegations against Benson, the code prohibits assistants from rendering the “removal of any plaque, stain, or hard natural or synthetic material except by toothbrush, floss or rubber cup coronal polish, or removal of any calculus.” Agents of the Iowa Dental Board inspected Benson’s practice, at which time he told investigators his dental assistant had not performed such procedures.

In a two-count statement of charges presented to Benson on April 25, a copy of which was supplied to the Daily News, the Iowa Dental Board charged the dentist with the illegal delegation of services and with falsifying reports to the board. Benson filed a written response to the allegations June 20, denying the charges.

A hearing was scheduled for July 13, but was continued for both sides to enter into settlement negotiations. Assistant Iowa Attorney General Theresa O’Connell Weeg represented the Iowa Dental Board, while Benson was represented by Raymond Stefani II, a Cedar Rapids attorney.

Both parties agreed to a settlement of the charges Feb. 1. According to the settlement, a copy of which was provided to the Daily News, Benson’s Iowa dental license was placed on probation for two years, effective Feb. 1 and subject to terms that include:

• Benson must fully cooperate with all future random, unannounced visits by the Iowa Dental Board and that all staff are practicing only in the areas in which they are legally allowed;

• Benson must successfully complete a “dental jurisprudence examination” within the next two months;

• Benson must pay a $2,500 fine within six months;

• Benson must allow all employees to report directly to the Iowa Dental Board any “violation of this order, or any violations of the rules of the board or state statutes related to the practice of dentistry, dental hygiene, or dental assisting” without fear of reprisal; and

• Benson must pay $200 on a quarterly basis — $800 total — to offset the state’s expense of monitoring his probationary period.

Any time Benson lives outside of Iowa, or practices dentistry outside of the state, will not be applied to the two-year probation.

The settlement agreement does not include any admission of violations on Benson’s part. It was signed by both Benson and Dr. Lynn Curry, vice chair of the Iowa Dental Board.

“It’s kind of an insult to my career, all as a result of a difference of opinion,” Benson said. “This was the first time I ever came before the Dental Board; I’ve had a stellar record for 35 years.”

Benson has been a licensed dentist in Iowa since June 14, 1976, according to state records. He said it would be too cost-prohibitive to fight the allegations, therefore he accepted a settlement at his attorney’s recommendation.

“I’m an extremely responsible guy, and I believe in carrying out my duties to the best of my ability,” he said. “So, I’m going to take my lumps and move on. It’s unfortunate, and I’m upset about it, but I like doing my job. It’s just a shame.”

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