A prominent dentist is on probation with the state board of dental examiners after not keeping proper records for at least one patient.
Linda Lee first went to see Dr. Eric Morrison in August 2013 and continued treatment through December 2017. As of last month, she was the complainant in a case that resulted in harsh disciplinary action.
Morrison has a long history practicing in Haywood County and first obtained his license in North Carolina on June 15, 1989.
He has since become a well-known figure in various Haywood County circles as a charitable man with an abundance of spirit. He did pro bono work for individuals unable to pay for services and was active in community activities.
Morrison turned his practice over to Dr. Heather Lee late last year, but is still involved in the practice.
It is important to note two facts — one, that Lee is in good standing with the board and has never had any disciplinary action on her record; and two, that neither Lee is related to one another.
But despite his reputation, Lee said that after a while, she saw a different side of him.
“Initially, I thought that he was soft-spoken and kind of a Zen-type guy because he was doing all these outdoor activities, climbing mountains and biking across the country,” she said. “It changed when he got his new office. His personality changed. He just seemed desperate like he wanted to do as much work as he could. I think he just became desperate to make money.”
The N.C. Board of Dental Examiners’ ruling, which Morrison consented to, states that he was unable to provide any notes regarding Lee’s treatment from 2013 or 2014 and that his notes from 2015-17 were “minimal and do not include diagnoses, medications used, materials used for impressions, or any documentation that patient LL provided informed consent.”
In Lee’s initial letter to the board requesting an investigation into Morrison, dated Jan. 17, 2018, she wrote that when she went to get work done, he recommended a three-tooth bridge, which would require taking out adjacent teeth to anchor the damaged tooth’s crown.
“I was displeased with the bridge, which looked like three baby teeth facing sideways,” Lee wrote.
The letter states that Morrison performed additional work to fix the issue, including another bridge, which Lee was again unhappy with.
“As a result of the smaller teeth, my face looked concave and loose compared to the other side of my face,” she wrote.
“The third attempt looked OK, but the piece is now loose,” Lee later stated in the letter. “This is very concerning when I try to eat.”
Lee also wrote that, in the meantime, she was having trouble with a tooth next to her front tooth. Morrison recommended the same procedure.
“The temporary bridge on my previous work came out six times before the final bridge came back,” she wrote. “I was in public with three teeth constantly falling out.”
Lee wrote that after both of her bridges required four additional visits, she asked for a refund.
“Dr. Morrison has refused and referred me to another dentist for a second opinion. I refused, as I have learned about how he scams his dental clients,” Lee wrote.
Lee provided The Mountaineer a response Morrison wrote directly to her on Dec. 8, 2017.
“I apologize for not being able to give you the results in dentistry that I typically deliver,” he wrote. “It is very unusual that crowns I place break as frequently in your mouth as opposed to 99% of patients in my practice. I understand how frustrated you must feel. Can you allow me to refer you to another dentist of your choice for a second opinion of why this is occurring and what this dentist’s treatment plan would be for restoring your bite and smile.”
Lack of records
The findings of the board of examiners corroborated the facts regarding the three-tooth bridge Morrison put in Lee’s mouth. The biggest problem noted throughout the document is the lack of notes and records kept by Morrison himself, as well as his failure to provide Lee informed consent forms.
An independent evaluator, “Dr. B,” examined Lee and reviewed her treatment records on Dec. 18, 2019.
“Patient informed Dr. B that she had never given respondent consent to splint teeth #7 and 8 together,” the board’s findings read. “There is no record or notation in any of the documents respondent produced to the board that demonstrates that patient LL gave informed consent for this treatment.”
“Dr. B noted that when patient LL initially presented to respondent’s office in August 2013 with fractured porcelain off of crowns 14, 18, 19 and 30,” the board later stated. “This finding should have alerted respondent to an occlusal trauma situation.”
Occlusal trauma is damage to teeth created when excessive force is acted upon them and they do not align properly. Dr. B noted that even after continued failed restorations, Morrison didn’t recognize the occlusal trauma until he diagnosed Lee with bruxism, or teeth grinding, on Aug. 3, 2017.
The findings also note that Morrison received a letter of caution in 2015 for failure to document informed consent before proceeding with treatment, and that he received another letter of caution in 2016, cautioning him to maintain more accurate and comprehensive patient records. Morrison did not address those issues.
“Dr. B also noted, and respondent agreed at the settlement conference that the treatment records for patient LL were inadequate,” the findings state. “Dr. B observed that the treatment records for patient LL were inadequate. Dr. B observed that the treatment records for 2013 and 2014 were not present, the clinical notes that were produced for 2015-2017 were minimal and inadequate, and there was no evidence of informed consent to the various procedures.”
Ultimately, the board determined that Morrison violated state law and put him on probation for five years. He is still employed at the practice he sold last year.
As terms of his probation, Morrison can’t violate any more rules, can’t direct or permit violation of the rules by employees, and he “shall permit the board or its agents to inspect and observe his office, conduct a random review of patient chart records, and interview employers, employees, and coworkers at any time during normal office hours.”
Should Morrison be found in violation of those terms during quarterly reviews with a “practice monitor,” a two-year suspension of his ability to practice will be activated. He also was ordered to reimburse Lee $3,597.50 and the board $2,000 for costs associated with the investigation.
Lee said she was thrilled with how thorough the board was in its investigation and the presentation of its conclusion.
“I have tremendous respect for them,” she said. “They investigated him for two years. At the final board meeting, which we were both at, I think there were at least four people on the main board, and there were eight people on the side and eight on a video thing. They were all dentists and they were all making sure they weren’t making mistakes.”
Morrison offered a brief comment to The Mountaineer through a text message.
“I’ve always loved my patients and dentistry, as well as my wife, family and friends. I’m not perfect, but I always try to do the best I can in whatever I do.”
Lee said she is happy to see that Morrison was held accountable.
“I’m very happy that the board researched the case enough to know what he did and didn’t do,” she said. “And I’m happy I followed through. People should use their gut feeling when they think someone is trying to do more work than they need.”