No fun and games for Feder in Dental Board claim

Chico dentist Robert Feder has found himself fending off accusations from the Dental Board of California that he over-sedated his patients, misleadingly advertised that his work was painless, and even treated patients while he himself was under the influence of pain medication.

Feder, whose smiling, ponytailed image is prominent on billboards around town, recently became widely known locally as the man who plans to open Mind Games, an upscale video gaming center in downtown Chico.

In a 10-page “accusation” submitted by the state Attorney General’s Office, it’s alleged that Feder violated about a dozen Business and Professions and Health and Safety codes. The state wants his dentistry certificate suspended or revoked.

Feder says the charges are blown out of proportion and that he’s the target of an overzealous Dental Board investigation.

The worst accusations appear to be “excessive administering of drugs” and that, from May 1999 to February 2000, Feder was “practicing while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance"—Vicodin and Darvocet, the Dental Board alleges.

Jeff Wall, chief of the Dental Board of California’s enforcement program, said he’s not allowed to talk about Feder’s case specifically. There are nearly 27,000 dentists practicing in the state, and last fiscal year the board referred 89 of them to the attorney general.

Five cases are detailed in the accusations against Feder. One woman, the July 2001 document states, had her wisdom teeth pulled, wasn’t properly monitored by Feder, and ended up in Enloe Medical Center with a Valium overdose. Another patient was given 100 milligrams of Valium and reported pain, bruising, bone damage and other ill effects after having his wisdom teeth pulled. Another woman had six teeth extracted after receiving an “excessive amount” of Valium, the state claims, and she later became irrational, walking out of her house in a daze.

Also, the billboards that make Feder so recognizable in Chico drew charges of misleading advertising under the code sections prohibiting promises to guarantee painless dentistry and claims of professional superiority.

“Accusations are just that: accusations. … It’s a lot of words,” said Feder, who insisted that the truth would come out through a hearing before an administrative law judge scheduled for Jan. 7.

“We deal with very apprehensive, fearful patients,” explained Feder, who does only extractions and root canals. His patients’ adrenaline levels were sometimes so high when they came in that a lesser dose of Valium did little, so he bumped it up. “Nobody has overdosed,” he countered.

Feder said he asked to give up his permit to dispense drugs, so he won’t have to deal with these issues. Now, his patients have to see a doctor if they want to be sedated.

He also denied that he treated patients while under the influence. Rather, Feder said, he took some Vicodin to ease pain from a chronic sinus infection, not while he was working on anyone.

Feder’s attorney, Robert Zaro of Sacramento, pointed out that the state hasn’t stopped Feder from being a dentist. “If the board was [sure] that this man was a threat to patients, they would be obligated to go in and temporarily suspend his license, and they have not done that.”

Wall, of the Dental Board, said outright suspension “rarely happens.” He said, “Typically, cases are resolved with the dentist’s license being revoked and the revocation stayed” while the dentist spends about five years on probation.

Feder said he suspected he was the subject of rumors around town. One incident that baffles him occurred several months ago when someone wrote “rapist” on his billboard.

At 55, Feder still enjoys "helping people in terrible pain" but is considering phasing out of dentistry, although not because of the board’s accusations. "As we get older, there are physical limitations," he said. "It depends on how Mind Games does."