A Skeptical Look at Alireza Panahpour, D.D.S.


Stephen Barrett, M.D.
May 17, 2019

Alireza Panahpour, D.D.S., practices what he describes as biological, holistic, integrative, cosmetic, conscious and/or systemic dentistry. His primary office is in Bellevue, Washington. He also maintains an office in Santa Monica, California. which he visits monthly for follow-up appointments. This article examines his background history, credentials, Web site claims, professional activities, and legal difficulties and indicates why I recommend avoiding him.

Panahpour’s clinic Web site says he offers “world-class biological & cosmetic dentistry.” [1] His personal Web site describes him as a “world-class holistic and biological/systemic dental surgeon” and states that he is certified in holistic dentistry, biomimetic dentistry, and 17 medical sub-specialties [2].

The services mentioned on his clinic site include ozone therapy, platelet rich fibrin (PRF), dental deprogrammer treatment for TMJ, myofunctional therapy, homeopathic immunity IV support, removal of cavitations and faulty root canals, and amalgam removal using the Huggins protocol. His self-published book, The Good Dentist [3], adds that he opposes water fluoridation, uses autonomic response testing (ART), and often refers patients for thermography testing. His views on all of these these subjects differ from those of the scientific medical and dental community. In a YouTube video promoting his book, he mentions that his kind of dentistry is not taught in dental school. His offbeat practices include:

  • Autonomic response testing (ART). In this procedure, the practitioner makes fanciful diagnoses throughout the body by testing the strength of the patient’s fingers when the patient is exposed to test substances or other stimuli. Panahpour does, “O-ring testing,” in which the practitioner tries to pull the patient’s thumb and forefinger apart after they are placed in a circle [3]. Panahpour’s book states that ART can determine whether various procedures are appropriate, which antibiotics to use, which quadrant of the mouth to start with, what tooth is ready for treatment first, which pain medicine to prescribe, which anesthetic to use to numb the patient, and which bonding material would be best for the patient. The idea that muscle-testing can make such determinations is preposterous [4].
  • Neural therapy. This approach is claimed to treat pain and disease throughout the body by injecting local anesthetics into nerves, scars, glands, trigger points, and other tissues. Panahpour states that he “injects procaine along neural lymphatic pathways to encourage the body to flush out toxins via the lymph.” Neural therapy is a senseless practice that is certainly outside the legitimate scope of dentistry [5].
  • Unnecessary removal of amalgam fillings. Panahpour claims that amalgam fillings poison people and should be removed. However, no study has shown any harm from proper use of dental amalgam in patients. Major reviews by the FDA, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Public Health Service have confirmed the safety of amalgam. Major consumer and patient advocacy organizations—including Consumers Union, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases Association—have concluded that there is no association between amalgam and human illness. Inappropriate removal of amalgam exposes a patient to an unnecessary procedure. The risks of removal include complications from local anesthetic, potential for laceration from rotary instruments, possible exposure to bacterial and viral pathogens, potential for penetration into the pulp chamber, preparation that enlarges a cavity and weakens tooth structure, potential for thermal and chemical insult to vital dental pulp tissue, and potential for aspiration [6]. The American Dental Association has declared that “the removal of amalgam restoration from the non-allergic patient for the alleged purpose of removing toxic substances from the body, when such treatment is performed solely at the recommendation or suggestion of the dentist is improper and unethical.” [7]
  • Cavitation diagnosis and surgery. A small minority of dentists claim that most facial pains and even pains and diseases located far from the mouth are caused by cavities (cavitations) within the jaw bones. Advocates call this condition “neuralgia-inducing cavitational osteonecrosis (NICO)” and claim they can cure the patient by locating and scraping out the affected tissues. They may also remove all root-canal-treated teeth, most of the vital teeth close to the area where they say a problem exists, and even parts of the jawbone. Worse yet, the surgery may result in severe infections and a lifetime of pain [8].
  • Use of homeopathic products. Homeopathy is a pseudoscience based on notions that (a) a substance that produces symptoms in a healthy person can cure ill people with similar symptoms and (b) that infinitesimal doses can be highly potent [8]. Panahpour’s book says that he often administers homeopathic remedies intravenously after removing amalgam fillings or performing cavitational surgery. No homeopathic product has ever been proven effective or gained FDA approval for the treatment of any health problem.

Family Background

Panahpour was born in Iran in 1966. His personal Web site describes his background this way:

I am a 5th generation dental surgeon. You could say that dentistry is in my blood. I have been a U.S. citizen for dozens of years, but my mother’s ancestry made me royalty in my native country. In the royal tradition, I began life being educated as a leader and warrior. But I had always dreamed of following my father’s, my grandfather’s, my great-grandfather’s and my great-great-grandfather’s footsteps into a career in dentistry. I spent my childhood observing in my father’s dental practice, working in the lab and, later, assisting in my dad’s dental surgeries. I was fascinated with everything I could learn in the surgery room. My curiosity and my passion for healing others was inborn. Fortunately, my family supported my dream in pursuing the career that I feel that I was born to do. They sent me to some of the finest schools with the best reputations in America to continue our family’s legacy: becoming one of the world’s best doctors of dental surgery [10].

After practicing dentistry in Iran for many years, Panahpour’s father moved his family to the United States, and practiced in California from 1985 through 1996. However, in 2001, his license was canceled and in 2005, the dental board denied his application for reinstatement because he had failed to disclose that in 2002 he had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in Nevada (admitting that he wrote $25,000 check to obtain chips at a casino when he knew that his bank account did not have sufficient funds to cover the amount). The administrative law judge who considered the father’s reapplication concluded that he had not “demonstrated the level of honesty and integrity required of a licensee.” The judge’s report also noted that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was being treated with lithium [11,12].

Educational History and Performance

The CV posted to Panahpour’s personal site states that he did undergraduate work at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1982 through 1990. and took premed courses at California State University at UCLA from 1988 through 1990 [13]. If accurate, this would mean that he began at age 16 and continued until he was 24. However, transcripts and other official documents I have seen tell a different story,. They indicate that he graduated from high school in 1985 and that most of his undergraduate credits were obtained at Santa Monica College, a 2-year community college that is not part of UCLA. They also show that his academic performance in college and dental school was very poor:

  • He graduated from Beverly Hills School in 1985 with a class rank of 75 out of 89.
  • From September 1984 through June 1989, he completed 72 credit hours of courses at Santa Monica College. He had a grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 (C) and was on academic probation throughout most of this time.
  • From the Spring of 1986 through the Fall of 1989, he also took classes at California State University. I do not know the total number of credits or his GPA, but his records indicate that he was on probation throughout most of this period.
  • His average score of 13 on the Dental Admission Test were much lower than the average for students accepted for dental school throughout the United States. (I estimate that he was in the lowest 5%.)
  • From July 1990 through June 1993. he attended the University of the Pacific Dental School. In 1991, he was placed on academic probation because his he had 13 units of “D” grades in four disciplines and his GPA was less than 2.0 for two consecutive quarters. His final GPA was 2.37, which placed him in 103rd in a class of 127.
  • While enrolled as a dental student, he failed Part II of the National Board examination twice.

Lawsuits by Patients

Panahpour has been sued for fraud and/or malpractice at least eleven times. At least six of the patients alleged that he had removed amalgam fillings unnecessarily. At least nine said that he had used autonomic response testing. At least seven said that he had used neural therapy, including three women who said he administered injections into their breasts. The eleven suits (involving twelve patients) had the following outcomes:

Plaintiff(s) Outcome
Janeen Bauer Dismissed because Panahpour filed bankruptcy
Chelsea Bib Dismissed because Panahpour filed bankruptcy
Jill Cresap Other defendants settled out of court, but the jury found in Panahpour’s favor
Ripsime (Rita) Filikyan Settled with undisclosed payment
Sarah Haynes Settled with undisclosed payment
Vartan Mansuryan Arbitration award of $2,805 against Panahpour
Pamela McGreevy Settled with undisclosed payment
Ardis & Henry Morschladt Settled with $19,998 payment
Anne Harrison Stone Settled with undisclosed payment
Andre Vaillancourt Judgment of $273,000 against Panahpour—not released by bankruptcy
Amy Starr Arbitration award of $471,975 against Panahpour

The Bauer complaint alleged:

  • During the first and fourth visits, Panahpour advised her to have all of her 14 amalgam fillings removed because the mercury in them was toxic to her system and could lead to cancer and other health problems. He also gave her a booklet that described connections between amalgam fillings and various diseases.
  • During the third visit, Panahpour performed ART/O-ring testing, during which he touched areas beneath the patient’s breasts, liver, heart, and lower pelvic region.
  • To determine the cause of the patient’s reported fatigue, Panahpour used ART testing that involved placing cards on her chest that contained notations of her daily food intake. Based on his findings, he prescribed dietary supplements and administered “neural therapy” that consisted of procaine injections into her jaws, abdomen, hands, scars on her right knee and upper back, and around both breasts around both of her breasts.
  • During most subsequent visits, Panahpour used ART to determine his choice of dental materials and anesthetic agents.

The Bibb complaint stated:

  • During the first visit, Panahpour prescribed dietary supplements for the stomach pain even though the patient had voiced no complaints of stomach problems. He also injected procaine into the patient’s right knee and a scar in her lower abdomen.
  • During the first visit, Panahpour diagnosed heavy metal poisoning and advised the patient to have all of her amalgam fillings removed

The Filikyan complaint alleged:

  • During several visits, Panahpour prescribed dietary supplements on the results of ART testing.
  • The patient was also subjected to neural therapy injections during at least seven of her subsequent visits.
  • the Haynes complaint, alleged:
  • Panahpour told her that her system contained toxic amounts of mercury that necessitated removal of all of her amalgam fillings.
  • Panahpour administered “neural therapy” that consisted of injections of an unknown substance into her neck, cheek, top of her right ear, top of her shoulder, and her abdomen near her navel.
  • Panahpour conducted ART testing by placing a plastic bottle on the patient’s head, neck, stomach and chest while his assistant tested the muscle strength of his fingers to allegedly diagnose the patient’s dental condition.
  • In May 2009, Panahpour failed to respond to the patient’s request for a copy of her dental records.

In the Mansuryan case, the arbitrator concluded:

  • Panahpour used ART to test the patient for allergies and prescribed dietary supplements based on the test results.
  • The patient was not given adequate informed consent for ART or neural therapy injections.

The McGreevy complaint alleged:

  • During the first visit, Panahpour performed ART testing in which he placed a block of plastic material on the patient’s body below the jaw line, behind the head, and has an assistant pull on his fingers to allegedly diagnose the patient’s dental condition.
  • During about a dozen visits, Panahpour performed neural therapy in which he administered injections into scar tissue on her neck, along her spine, and into her left wrist, her abdomen, and both breasts.
  • Panahpour recommended extensive dental surgery based on an examination with a Cavitat ultrasound device. The Cavitat is not FDA-approved for diagnosis.

The Morschladt complaint alleged:

  • During Ardis Morschladt’s first visit to Panahpour, he diagnosed heavy metal toxicity that he said was detrimental to her health and said that all 19 of her existing fillings and all of her crowns should be replaced.
  • During several subsequent visits, Panahpour performed ART testing and prescribed supplements based on his findings. He also administered neural therapy, which involved procaine injections into her jaw, the underside of her chin, her right knee, and one of her toes.
  • Henry Morschladt also consulted Panahpour who advised him to have all of his amalgam fillings removed due to mercury poisoning.
  • Even though Henry Morschladt had no dental symptoms, Panahpour recommended and carried out extensive restorative treatment that he alleged was needed.

The Stone complaint alleged:

  • Panahpour performed ART by placing medications on the patient’s abdomen and told her that she had mercury poisoning that required removal of her amalgam fillings.
  • On at least five occasions, Panahpour treated the patient with intravenous solutions that contained various combinations of vitamins and minerals.

The Vaillancourt complaint alleged:

  • During the second visit, based on his ART findings, Panahpour advised the patient to stop taking his diabetes medication and to use six dietary supplements that Dr, Panahpour sold to him. The treatment of diabetes is clearly outside of the legitimate scope of dentistry.
  • During at least eight subsequent visits, based on ART findings, Panahpour prescribed and sold additional supplement products to the patient.
  • During at least seven visits, Panahpour performed “neural therapy” that consisted of procaine injections into the back, front and sides of the patient’s neck; the center of his jaw, and/or his chest in the area of his heart.

The Starr complaint alleged:

  • During cavitation surgery done to treat a nonexistent infection, Panahpour injured a nerve, causing permanent numbness of the left side of the patient’s lower jaw.

In many of these cases, the plaintiffs also stated that the “restorative” work Panahpour performed was substandard, caused them considerable pain, and required them to have extensive rehabilitative work elsewhere. Panahpour’s book claims I was somehow responsible for the suits, even though I was not.

When Panahpour failed to pay the arbitration award to Amy Starr, she asked the Superior Court of Washington to appoint a general receiver who could take control of his income and other assets so that she could be paid. The court granted her petition in August 2018 [13].

Disciplinary Actions

The database of the Dental Board of California states that Panahpour acquired his California dental license in 1994. In 2005, the board charged Panahpour with (a) negligently treating three teeth of a patient that needed restorations, (b) improperly double-billing an insurance company, and (c) using professional names other than the one under which he was licensed [14]. The case was settled by a stipulation in which he admitted to using unlicensed names and gave up the right to contest the other charges. The board assessed him $10,000 for the cost of its proceedings and ordered him to serve two years’ probation, during which he was required to take remedial courses in oral diagnosis and treatment planning. He was also barred from practicing as Dr. Alexander Pana or Dr. Alex Pana unless he legally changes his name [15].

In 2009, Panahpour acquired a license to practice dentistry in the State of Washington, where most of his practice is now located. In 2018, the Washington Dental Quality Assurance Commission charged him with unprofessional conduct in his treatment of a patient. The board’s complaint notes that (a) he performed four “cavitation” operations on a patient’s upper and lower left jaw even though a panoramic x-ray showed no infection or other abnormal findings, and (b) during one of the operations, Panahpour injured a nerve in the jaw that caused the patient to have long-term numbness [16]. In 2019, the board concluded that Panahpour’s care of this patient was substandard and revoked his license for a minimum of five years. It also ordered him to reimburse the patient for all fees and pay the State of Washington a $5,000 fine plus $18,000 for the cost of the disciplinary proceedings. In order to reinstate his license, he must pay these assessments and pass several competency tests [17].

References

  1. Panahpour: The Systemic Dentist (home page), accessed June 19, 2018.
  2. Meet Dr. Panahpour. Dr. Alireza Panahpour Web site, accessed June 22, 2018.
  3. Panahpour A, Griggers C. The Good Dentist. Kindle Books, April 5, 2016.
  4. Barrett S. Some Notes on the bi-digital O-ring test and quantum reflex analysis. Quackwatch, Sept 10, 2017.
  5. Barrett S. Stay away from neural therapy. Quackwatch, March 13, 2015.
  6. Baratz RS. Key points about amalgam safety. Quackwatch, Sept 24, 2004.
  7. Dental amalgam and other restorative materials. Advisory opinion 5.A.1. In ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct. Revised April 2012.
  8. Barrett S. A critical look at cavitational osteopathosis, NICO, and “biological dentistry.” Quackwatch, April 24, 2010.
  9. Barrett S. Homeopathy: The ultimate fake. Quackwatch, Aug 25, 2016.
  10. Statement of issues. Before the Dental Board of California, Case No. DBC 2004-38, Oct 25, 2004.
  11. Decision. In the matter of the application of Kamel Panahpour, D.D.S., Before the Dental Board of California, Case No. DBC 2004-38, Aug 31, 2005.
  12. Accusation. In the matter of the accusation against: Alireza Panahpour, D.D.S. Dental Board of California, March 18, 2005.
  13. Order for the appointment of a general receiver. Amy Starr v. Alireza Panahpour, D.D.S. Superior Court of Washington for King County  Case No. 18-2-03437-0, filed Aug 14, 2018.
  14. Curriculum vitae: Alireza Panahpour, D.D.S. Downloaded from alirezapanahpour.com, June 22, 2018.
  15. Stipulated settlement and disciplinary order. In the matter of the accusation against: Alireza Panahpour, D.D.S. Dec 19, 2006.
  16. Statement of charges. In the matter of Alireza Panahpour. Washington Dental Quality Assurance Commission Master Case No. M2017-927, May 1, 2018.
  17. Findings of fact, conclusions of law, and final order. In the matter of Alireza Panahpour. Washington Dental Quality Assurance Commission, Master Case No. M2017-927, April 30, 2019.

This article was revised on March 1, 2020.