Dentist accused of performing a root canal while intoxicated

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State regulators have suspended the license of an Iowa dentist who is accused of being drunk while performing a root canal on a state prisoner.

The Iowa Dental Board has charged Paymun Bayati, 58, of Waterloo with practicing dentistry in a manner that is harmful or detrimental to the public and with violating provisions of Iowa related to the practice of dentistry. The board alleges he poses an “imminent threat” the public and has suspended his license on an emergency basis.

Due to a 2022 Iowa Supreme Court ruling, the board is not making public the specific conduct that gave rise to the charges.

However, police records show that on December 7, 2023, an Anamosa, IA, police officer was dispatched to the Anamosa State Penitentiary in reference an impaired person who was trying to drive away from the prison. The officer reported arriving at the prison and meeting with the warden, the deputy warden and Bayati, who was the prison dentist at that time.

According to the police report, the warden said nurses had reported that Bayati appeared to be intoxicated and had just completed a root canal on a patient. The officer reported that after Bayati was questioned by the warden and “informed that he was done working at the prison,” Bayati walked out of the building and attempted to drive away. The warden and deputy warden then prevented Bayati from leaving, according to the report.

The police officer reported that he observed Bayati and noticed his speech was slurred and he “smelled heavily” of alcohol. “He let me search his vehicle in the parking lot, where I located an empty flask that smelled of an alcoholic beverage,” the officer reported.

Bayati then submitted to a test that allegedly indicated a blood-alcohol level of 0.158 -- almost twice the legal limit for driving. He was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication.

Bayati said Thursday he doesn’t drink and that he believes someone, probably a dental assistant, tampered with his cup of coffee by pouring isopropyl alcohol into it after he arrived at the prison that morning.

"I feel that somebody slipped something into my drink," Bayati said, adding that the level of alcohol in his system was equal to 11 shots of alcohol being consumed in the hour before his planned departure.

“Eleven shots, which means that with one hand I was treating a patient’s tooth and with the other hand I was slamming down shots,” he said.

Bayati said he never tried to drive away from the prison and that the empty flask in his car was camping gear that had been inadvertently left inside the vehicle.

A trial on the criminal charge is scheduled for February 21. A board hearing on the disciplinary charges was initially scheduled for Friday but has since been canceled and has yet to be rescheduled. Bayati said the board charges are tied directly to his arrest.

State records indicate Bayati was issued an Iowa dental license in August 1999. In 2022, the board charged him with failing to maintain a reasonably satisfactory standard of competency related to dental implants. At that time, he was practicing in Sioux City, IA, but the charges against him were tied to conduct that allegedly occurred when he was practicing in Waterloo.

According to the board, a patient complained of Bayati’s placement of four implants. A sampling of Bayati’s clinical records for implants were then reviewed by a consultant who allegedly concluded Bayati failed to meet the minimum standard of care for dental implant placement. The board then issued an order barring Bayati from performing such work on patients.

This article was originally published in the Iowa Capital Dispatch and republished by DrBicuspid under the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. The Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. 

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times.

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