Spring 2009

Revealing How Dentists Profit By Abusing Children

In ‘Drilling for Dollars,’ a local TV reporter presented shocking visual and audio testimony about a situation in which children were being needlessly treated and harmed because of corporate greed.

By Roberta Baskin
When I walked off the news set after reporting on Small Smiles, a chain of Medicaid dental clinics for children, the makeup artist was sobbing. “How could they?” she said. A producer sitting outside the editing room was in tears. Each was reacting to the wretched screams of children during dental treatments—screams they’d heard as my story aired.

This story about Small Smiles began for me in May 2007. I had returned to WJLA-TV, an ABC affiliate station that I’d left 17 years earlier to do investigative reporting at the networks. The news director, Bill Lord, encouraged me to return to my “local roots” and enthusiastically assured me that there would be time and resources to do the kind of digging that could hold the powerful accountable and make a difference in the Washington, D.C. community. Although I worked on other projects, the Small Smiles investigation became my benchmark.

Like hundreds of other investigations I’ve reported during the past 30 years, this one began by answering a random phone call. Deborah McDaniel, a dental assistant, was enraged. She had just tried to log an official complaint with the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners against her former employer, Small Smiles, the largest dental chain for children in the country. Incredibly, she said the board wouldn’t allow her to file a complaint because the patients weren’t her children, and she no longer worked there. She’d been fired from the Langley Park, Maryland facility the day before. It was one in a chain of nearly 70 clinics scattered across the country delivering dental care to half a million children annually. McDaniel angrily explained that she was let go for loudly complaining about a dentist drilling teeth on the wrong child. “I’m a mother,” McDaniel vented. “There’s no way I would bring my children there. They tie the little ones down on papoose boards and do unnecessary baby root canals for the bonus money.”

Unnecessary baby root canals? Bonus money? Through her emotional tirade, McDaniel described business tactics that she believed encouraged unnecessary dental work on defenseless children. Profits made while the children suffered.

McDaniel explained that production goals were set each day by corporate headquarters in Colorado. If the dentists exceeded them, the staff received big bonuses. She had no doubt this encouraged thousands of dollars a month in unnecessary work. She told me corporate contests were held among the clinics. Performing the highest number of baby root canals was the goal, because Medicaid reimbursed top dollars for them. The Langley Park Small Smiles clinic won the contest and had a trophy to show for it.

Some of what she told me in that phone call made me skeptical and, because I’ve always valued personal contact with a major source, I wanted to meet McDaniel right away. I asked her to bring whatever documentation she could provide to support her charges. She brought the Small Smiles Policy Manual, a 100-page manifesto of corporate thinking.

This was the critical document, and it certified her credibility. The manual was filled with red flags. Parents weren’t allowed to sit with their children during treatment. Young children were routinely strapped to papoose boards, immobilized with Velcro straps. And she showed me a bonus check for beating production goals while acknowledging that she, like other dental staff, conducted x-rays on children even though they weren’t certified, a clear violation of Maryland law.

McDaniel agreed to speak on camera and, in the course of the interview, she described how some children, isolated from their parents, would sweat profusely. Sometimes they threw up. If that happened, the dental assistants were taught to flip them over on the papoose board, suction out their mouths, and flip them back so the dentist could continue working. Sometimes the children wet their pants. Hair dryers were kept handy to dry kids off before sending them back out to their parents. McDaniel explained that the rooms had radios blasting to obscure the sound of screams.

I wanted corroboration for what sounded like a “Little Shop of Horrors” and, after much agonizing, two more former employees agreed to talk on camera. Others, still on the job, spoke to me on background. Their stories about how children were treated were remarkably similar.


Cameraman Pete Hakel captured a child crying during dental work at the Small Smiles clinic.

Visually Documenting the Story

Getting video of what we’d learned presented a special challenge. Yet from the beginning my producer, Sandy Bergo, and I knew we needed to get inside the clinic to see the dentists in action. Privacy concerns are always paramount when shooting in medical areas, so we rejected the idea of using hidden cameras. We also knew that Maryland is a “two-party consent” state, requiring agreements from both parties to videotape undercover. There were other obstacles. Releases would be needed from parents for any shooting we did. Many were Hispanic and didn’t speak English. We would need to translate releases into Spanish and gain the trust of parents, and many of them wouldn’t like being publicly identified as being on Medicaid.

As we were figuring out our approach to filming, serendipity intervened. I heard the local Fox station had been invited to the opening ceremony of a new Small Smiles clinic to do a feature story. So we called the clinic and asked, “How about us?” They agreed.

My cameraman and longtime friend, Pete Hakel, a 39-year veteran of WJLA-TV, is disarmingly funny and so nonchalant that he can slip away and shoot most anything without raising alarms. When we went to the clinic, he did just that, and captured crying children strapped to papoose boards, others not properly shielded during x-rays, and a four-year old boy having his nose pinched in an attempt to force open his mouth. These scenes were so graphic that we debated what would be acceptable to show on air. I took my video around to several pediatric dentists to get their reaction. They were shocked, even describing what they saw as “torture.” I was told papoose boards are rarely used, and some pediatric dentists don’t even own one because they know how to keep children calm.

McDaniel had told us about the morning staff meeting during which the staff was briefed on the day’s production goals. She described them as pep rallies. So on our second day of shooting, Pete arrived two hours early and, incredibly, was allowed to roll tape on the lead dentist chastising the staff for not meeting the previous day’s production goals. When I interviewed the lead dentist, he candidly admitted that their team sometimes would do six or more baby root canals on a child in one sitting. I already knew the clinic would be reimbursed $214 in public Medicaid funding for each one.


Roberta Baskin delivered the “Drilling for Dollars” story on WJLA-TV.


What Happened Next

RELATED WEB LINK
Read the script and see the video of this story »
- www.wjla.com
Our news director prefers that investigative reports are told in fewer than three minutes, but our first report on this story aired at a full eight minutes. The report’s length—and its disturbing content—created a sense of urgency. The impact of our “Drilling for Dollars” investigation was broad and swift. I’d alerted the inspector general at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, who subsequently opened an investigation that is still in progress. Maryland’s attorney general began a criminal investigation. And by the end of the first week, half a dozen insurance companies put the Small Smiles clinics in Maryland and the District of Columbia off-limits to their patients while they conducted their own investigations. Ultimately, the Langley Park Small Smiles clinic shut down. Small Smiles also launched an internal investigation and, although they would not agree to be interviewed on camera, the company claimed to have made improvements that included ending contests for clinics that exceeded production goals.

EDITOR'S NOTE
The Washington Post reported this story on February 28, 2007 in a story, “For Want of a Dentist.
How was it that Small Smiles could be so profitable just treating Medicaid children? Earlier in 2007, a 12-year old Maryland boy died from untreated tooth decay. The infection traveled to his brain, causing an abscess. In the aftermath of his death, a shocking statistic had emerged. Four out of five dentists refuse to treat Medicaid children because it’s just not profitable enough. Government reimbursement rates are far less than what private insurers pay. Small Smiles made up for that in volume by maximizing the amount of work they could do per visit. This strategy proved to be so profitable that the company’s goal was to continue opening three new clinics every month. As I dug more deeply into the finances of the company, I discovered The Carlyle Group was a major investor along with an Arab bank in Bahrain called Arcapita, which invested $460 million in the enterprise.

We did a dozen Small Smiles follow-up reports during the next year; in some of those, I identified similar problems across the country. Our efforts earned the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award and a local and national Emmy for investigative reporting. In January of this year, we were given an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, one of the highest honors in broadcast journalism.

But this winter has been bittersweet. WJLA-TV decided to shut down the investigative unit—and thus end my job at the station. The station’s owners described such reporting as “a luxury” they can no longer afford.

I disagree. Is it a luxury when our reports convince companies to reform bad business practices? Is it a luxury when regulatory agencies suddenly are motivated to enforce laws already on their books? And is it a luxury when the most vulnerable among us, those without access to power—like the children at these dental clinics who are victims of corporate greed—are given an opportunity to be heard?

My reporting has led to recalls of dangerous products, banned hazardous chemicals, put people in prison, and resulted in congressional hearings and changes in law. It is work that takes time and demands resources, but it pays long-term dividends as news organizations earn the trust of viewers who realize their well being is valued. Investigative reporting should not be part of the equation when determining a news organization’s bottom line. But there’s plenty of evidence—and not just at local TV stations—that these dividends are being sacrificed in favor of short-term profits.

As for me, I’ve been a muckraking journalist for 30 years, and I’m not about to stop. I’ll continue to tell stories that need to be told, possibly on television and on other emerging platforms. I’ll also continue to help other reporters succeed with their investigations by offering research, resources, contacts and strategy, as well as my active involvement with many journalism organizations. It’s incumbent on all of us to explore creative ways to strengthen essential, in-depth watchdog reporting by developing fresh revenue streams that bypass the current broken business model. For more than two centuries, the work by members of the free press to hold those with power accountable has stood as one of the pillars of our democracy. When did that become a luxury?

Roberta Baskin, a 2002 Nieman Fellow, has won more than 75 journalism awards and serves on the boards of the Journalism & Women Symposium, Images & Voices of Hope, International Communications Forum-America, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards Committee, and the Nieman Foundation’s Advisory Board. “Drilling for Dollars” won a 2009 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.

33 Comments on Revealing How Dentists Profit By Abusing Children
anon says:
December 29, 2013 at 7:12pm


Patients shouldn' t have to pay for the dentist and his loans or debt , but for the work he does on a patient.

Dentists should be compassionate towards their patients especially if their patients are children .

And not every child with problems at the dentist is necessarily eating candy or drinking juice .
chris says:
September 17, 2013 at 10:53pm
Today not only was I horrified but my nephew as well how do I go about reporting a dentist for abuse ?
Gabrielle Kim says:
August 30, 2012 at 1:15pm
I got this procedure done on me when I was little. They strapped me down and it made me feel scared throughout the whole entire procedure. I also remember the dentist hitting my stomach in order to make me stop crying by getting the wind knocked out of me. I don't know where this dentist went, but I really wanted to sue him for treating me and other children abusively.
Lucinda F. says:
January 26, 2012 at 8:53pm
Good evening, l worked for a pediatric practice where l saw all tgis crimes, when l refused to do that was treatened. I can't leave ... Very dangerous, can't stay.. Very painful and guilty...! How to protect my daughter and muself..?



Thanks...
Melissa Burell says:
August 24, 2011 at 8:18pm
NEVER ALLOW DENTIST TO USE THESE ON YOUR BABIES On July 22 , 2011 I took the most trusting beautiful wonderful special well adjusted 6 year old child in to have extensive Teeth work done...I promised her that the medicine would help her not hurt and that everything would be ok. I did NOT know they used these boards but it was in my paper work so I unknowingly signed my kid up that day for 2 hours of pure torture. She is one of the ,01% of children that had an adverse reaction to versed and because they had her pinned down and restrained and mouth full of crap she could not let them know. She sat in that chair wide awake having hallucinations and accelerated heart rate along with pain for 2 hours. They would not allow me back and I had no idea what was going on. I left that place with a child in true shock....it has taken us doctor after doctor to get her through the mental and physical consequences of being strapped down while suffering and basically 1 step from death. I would have never allowed this to be used on her if I had known. I understand in emergencies of them being used but is putting a child through pure hell worth saving a baby tooth....I am now just a month later finding out they used this,(she finally spoke up in a play session, Medical bills are 30 grand and climbing and it all is because of this torture tool they strapped her in. They had no idea the medicine had not worked on her because she could not in any way let them know because her body was totally wrapped.....these things should be outlawed for dental work. I did not come home with my child that day...I came home with a child that is full of panic and illness 24/4...she wont even eat and drink. She lays on the couch crying 24/7...mommy help me, Im scared or is clinging to me like the devil is after her.....I WILL NEVER FORGIVE MY SELF
tommy says:
December 2, 2010 at 11:39pm
I was a troubled youth, at the age of 14 I was sent to a boys home. Broken Shackle Ranch, it is not really what they make it out to be. It is foster parents, housing between 8 to 12 youths. When you enter you belong to the state, Me as many others were given medicade, and taken to the dentist. I was 14 years old, I had a cavity he did not fix. What I did get was the entire front upper part of my mouth drilled out packed with dental bonding and sanded back down. It all fell out 3 years later and I HAVE HAD EXPINSIVE DENTAL REPAIRS EVER SINCE. I am 32 now and have made a good life for me and my family. I think about the 8 other youths that I saw have the same exact same procedure done. And wonder how many more I don't know of. What I do know is that this dentist was practising cheap cosmetic dentistry on unstable teens to bill medicade. there is a story in this that I have not began to scratch the surface. Will you help justice
Dr Anthony DDS says:
November 19, 2010 at 12:15pm
I am no fan of these corporate dental mills. I think greed does improperly influence treatment decisions at these places and I would never work for any company that gave me a pep talk or encouraged me to over treat kids with bonuses. Like most people, I think that leads to corruption. HOWEVER, that article was terribly biased and needed to give both sides. Children cry at the dentist mostly because they are scared NOT because they are in pain. Shots do hurt a little bit and when you combine that with their high anxiety, young kids especially will cry. Also sometimes a papoose board is necessary to treat a child who cannot/will not sit still. This shouldn't be used often but it is sometimes necessary to get the child out of pain or to complete a half-way finished procedure. Those pediatric dentists who claim they never use a papoose board are often referring out the child for sedation or general anesthesia which has its own set of risks and complications, not to mention high costs. Parents reading the above article should not assume that a crying child is being abused. Also when given the choice parents often choose the papoose board as a better alternative than putting their child under general anesthesia in an operating room. I really enjoy treating children and would never knowingly have them hurting in my chair. The vast majority of dentists do their best under sometimes very difficult conditions.
Dr. S says:
August 31, 2010 at 8:39pm
As a dentist now in a pediatric training program, I would like to clear up several things in your article. It is very common for children to cry, puke, etc during appointments! Just because they are crying does not mean they are in pain, mostly they are just scared! Kids puke when they get worked up, the dentist is not torturing them. A child cannot be sent home mid-procedure just because they puked, the dentist needs to finish the work that was started for the safety of the child. The reason that these dentists do as much work as possible in one visit does not always have to be about money! Baby root canals take roughly 10 minutes, it is nowhere near as complex as an adult root canal. I applaud a dentist for doing 6 at a time, for he is taking an infection out of the child that would turn into an abscess very soon. Also, the population that they are treating is known for frequently missing appointments. You want to do as much work as possible for the child, knowing that there is a large chance the parent will only bring them back if a large infection develops or the kid is in pain. As for papoose boards, they are perfectly acceptable in many cases. While I agree that kids should not be strapped down in most cases, there are instances that for the safety of the child, dentist and assistants, papoose boards are needed to restrain a hysterical child. Hands wavering around sharp objects is very dangerous, and the dentist cannot always communicate to a child that they are trying to benefit the child by removing infection from the mouth, no matter how good the dentist is. Dentists that do not use them are just referring the patients to be sedated or put under general anesthesia, which is sometimes necessary but both have significantly more medical risks than strapping a child down in papoose boards. Practices accepting Medicaid are very different from pediatric dentists serving middle and upper class, and the population dictates certain things. Working for an underserved community myself, I can tell you that papoose restraint is required much more in this population, as the children have more extensive decay and therefore are unable to sit still for work, and are in pain at many times. On the note that some children were not properly shielded, times have changed and technology has improved tremendously in the area of radiography. Dental xrays now emit so little radiation that a full mouth series of xrays (20 xrays) is no more radiation than standing outside! The shield is now more for peace of mind. Please educate yourself on certain facts before perceiving these dentists as torturers. I can't say that most dentists are good people, but to be a pediatric dentist requires a lot of patience and compassion. They are working long, hard hours and are being paid far less in Medicaid practice than private practice. therefore sacrificing a profit themselves to benefit underserved children. One more thing, for all of you who think that your dentist is ripping you off for treatment. After completing a pediatric residency, your child's dentist has completed ten years of post-high school schooling. I am in over $350,000 debt from dental school and have 10 years of lost income because I was not making money during school. Please understand that your dentist has to pay thousands of dollars per month in loans for 20-30 years, while also trying to recoup for having no income for 10 years. For those of you who are against amalgam and fluoride, you are miseducated. The articles you are reading are not peer reviewed research articles. You need to find legitimate articles to better educate yourself. I am a dentist, I have amalgam in my mouth, and I use fluoride. I am not poisoned. The ADA has supported significant research proving the safety and efficacy of fluoride and amalgam. With all that said, there may certainly be problems in this practice, such as drilling on the wrong child, but many points in this article are exaggerated to the point that they give pediatric dentists a bad name. Dentistry is difficult as it is, working with patients who are generally not happy to see you. Working with kids makes it that much harder, and some procedures, such as certain needle injections do hurt. Kids do cry. Just because your kid was in pain or cried does not mean the dentist is a bad person or a bad dentist; sometimes no matter how much effort we put forth to make the child comfortable, they are going to be scared. But please give us credit and have faith that we are treating your child as our own, and not intentionally hurting them, but trying to help them. We are not the ones feeding them juice and candy and not brushing their teeth adequately, we are the ones trying to help. Please don't believe everything you read.
Jake says:
May 14, 2010 at 8:59am
Dentistry is much better in the former Soviet Union where they are highly skilled, sterilization fanatics and the equipment is now all new...and dentists tend to be mothers themselves.

An adult Root Canal would be $42 on average. This is because they don't have the greed and there is enough profit in there to slowly pay off the equipment and feed the dentist and assistant. If someone wants to charge you $1000 for a root canal in the USA, you can be sure that more than $900 of that is for fancy cars, etc.
Andrew says:
February 15, 2010 at 3:02pm
My family and I have recently fallen victim to an organization by the name of Kool Smiles, a local kids dentistry here in Indianapolis, IN. I think I am taking the proper steps to find some type of justice for this blatant disregard for our american children. I am in need of some type of support as to how exactly in what mannerism to handle my family's ordeal. I think these types of tortuous child luring fraudulent wannabe organizations should be brought to proper justice immediately and with extreme prejudice. Any information, advice, professional opinions, or even similar stories would be much appreciated. 317-887-1804 is my home telephone number and my email address is rainessaga1111@yahoo.com. thank you
abby king says:
January 31, 2010 at 10:01am
WHAT! this is outrage people get your self together this is for all the DR. what are you doing these days taking the children with no RESPECT you think only the camreas got on tape but you know what GOD is watching you every single minute and he coming you won`t like it you better be glad i found JESUS i am only ten yers old andd i respct i myself to stand for what i believe in please people if we can get a lot of people to say what`s on our minds we can truly bring these people DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!
michaela says:
January 30, 2010 at 1:51pm
IT IS SO WRONG WHAT THEY DO TO CHILDREN IF THIS HAPPEN TO ONE OF MY BABBIES I WOULD WALK RIGHT IN THAT DOOR AND SLAP THE PERSON WHO DID IT IT IS PLAIN WRONG PLEASE LOOK AT THE RULES BOOK AND MAKE SURE YOU CAN GO IN WITH YOUR CHILD NOW LISTEN SOME DONT ALLOW YOU TO GO BUT!THEY HAVE A CRAMERA SO YOU CAN SEE EVERYTHING THERE DOING PLEASE BESAFE FOR YOUR CHILDRENS SAKE GOD BLESS AND HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY
christina greene says:
January 24, 2010 at 3:21am
I have been all over this story since friday night.I am a christian and i love nothing more than helping people.I love to give and comfort.after the 20/20 episode,i want to do much more.I have heard this is nothing new in the way the unfortunate are treated,hospitals have mistreated low income women giving birth and many have died.I am going to get involved and do all I can to protect these people.
Melissa Ludtke says:
January 21, 2010 at 12:41pm
In January 2010 a settlement agreement was reached with the U.S. justice department in which Forba Holdings LLC, which manages the Small Smiles dental clinics, agreed to pay $24 million to settle a lawsuit claiming it caused bills to be submitted to Medicaid for unneeded dental services for children. Its 68 clinics in 22 states serve more than 500,000 low-income children a year.

Roberta's persistent investigative reporting for WJLA- TV brought this situation to public attention, and on the day of the settlement she described in more detail the collaborative ways in which this story was brought to public attention. Here are her words:

When justice comes through on a story you've lived through like this, it's a sweet day! In fact I landed at the Inspector General's Office as a result of this investigation. But here's what made this reporting experience unique. When I broke the story I asked my news director if I could give video to Univision because it would be a crucial way to inform the Spanish speaking community about this dental chain's shameful conduct. After he agreed to that, I asked if I could share video with an NBC affiliate, then a CBS affiliate. In each case he agreed. Sharing video allowed us to do journalism in the public interest, without particular regard to the competitive "corporate interest." My former competitors aka collaborators all joined together today to share the news of this 24-million dollar settlement and corporate integrity agreement. Because they'd all developed their own stories in their communities it meant the story got a much bigger megaphone.

PAUL STICKEL says:
December 31, 2009 at 12:05am
I HAVE ANOTHER STORY THAT YOU MIGHT LIKE TO GET INVOLVED IN CONCERNING POLICE THAT BROKE THE LAW AN HOW THEY COVER IT UP TO ESCAPE LARGE LAW SUITS.
Lindsey says:
August 22, 2009 at 1:58am
Have any of these dentists been criminally prosecuted? I would think they could be charged with assault at the least. Or, are they protected from prosecution and able to perform these unnecessary and cruel procedures at will? I agree with the person who said it made her reconsider supporting the death penalty.
E. O'Neill says:
August 15, 2009 at 6:38pm
A superb - exemplary piece of watchdog reporting. This nonsense happened to me as a small child. I'm (orally!( healthy as an adult. But how I wish someone had exposed it. Simple - sad - reality: hurting kids Vs making cash... Some morons will go the wrong way. We need fine journalism like this to remind them men and women of conscience are watchign their actions. The idiot who said it was a 'luxury...' well he/she is no better than the cruel dentists. Great journalism.
nyscof says:
July 8, 2009 at 7:49am
This is why media as we know it is a dying concept with people turning to the Internet to gather the news.

Roberta is a national treasure. The only other person I see doing investigative pieces with regularity is Brian Ross. Otherwise news has become a "he said; she said" even if the reporter has to search high and wide for that one dissenter to "balance" a story he or she isn't allowed to truly investigate.

Journalists have a moral obligation to tell the truth.

As newspapers shut down and less people watch TV news, new outlets will emerge where truth is welcomed.

The Internet is that place. Now we have to make it a place where good journalists can make a lving.

Lynne Lyon says:
May 24, 2009 at 10:31am
This was excellent reporting. I take issue with only one thing: "Four out of five dentists refuse to treat Medicaid children because it’s just not profitable enough." It is not that Medicaid is not profitable enough - it is that providers lose money by providing services for what Medicaid pays. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (psychotherapist), and I cannot afford to take most insurance plans. They pay less than 50% of the normal, customary fee. Medicaid pays only 13% - $16 for one session! I can't afford to support my family with that kind of payment. We need a single-payer plan that pays a fair fee for service to each provider. Only then will everyone have access to the same quality of health care. Write to your Senators and Reps. NOW.
Devon Sean McCullough says:
May 21, 2009 at 6:08am
Single-Payer Medicare for All is our best hope.

This revives nightmares I had as a kid after going to the hospital for now-discredited "standard" childhood operations. I just lost my job for getting injured but I can keep my health plan for $700 a month. I'll bet half the anti-national-health comments are paid for by the greedoids who bank on our corrupt medical system and the other half are sincere despair by those they burned. Grass roots vs. $43,000,000+ annual bribes to Congress and millions in TV propaganda but it's a matter of personal survival. I'd pay about $440 and get more choice, more control and better care with a Canada or Euro-style system where we outlaw health insurance companies and put their ex-employees through school again with expenses.
Donna Hoffman says:
May 20, 2009 at 12:06pm
For me, this story is VERY believable. I was formerly a foster parent in Georgia. It was almost impossible to find a dentist that did NOT want to do wild, unnecessary work on my children - even to the extreem of pulling 8 healthy adult teeth! I quickly learned to get a second opinion from a non-medicaid dentist before going forward with any treatment. 95% of the time the second opinion was a firm, "NO. They do NOT need this proceedure."

Now I have a child with Down syndrome and have experienced the same challenges. Nine of ten dentists I called would not allow me to be present during her treatment AND insisted on using a papoose board. I had to drive 45 miles away to find a dentist who would treat her like a human being.

THANK YOU for finally getting this story out!
JimBeam says:
May 19, 2009 at 10:54pm
The greed will NEVER go away. It is part of the human condition.

Sadly, I only see this getting worse if we have any sort of national health care system. In fact, Small Smiles only exists due to the public payment/private delivery system that is medicaid. The more that you a single source of health care coverage paying at below market rates the more "drilling for profit" you are going to see.
Dr. B says:
May 19, 2009 at 10:49pm
This is to be expected with either corporate care or government care. Once you sever the doctor-patient/parent relationship by inserting goverment control and/or corporate control (managed care/insurance or Medicaid/Universal care) you put the patient and public at risk. Expect similar nightmares if universal healthcare is ever enacted. Whatever the government or insurer deems "necessary" treatment, will be exploited for profit. "Whatever you subsidize, will grow". BTW, all the previous postings about mercury and fluoride are quite wrong and really are a dangerous form of misinformation.
Shirley says:
May 19, 2009 at 5:33pm
I would say it's unbelievable but after doing some research on the history of mercury amalgams, it's really not. The history of professional dentistry is heavily tainted by corporate greed and immorality. The American Dental Association succeeded because of its willingness to ignore risks associated with mercury and continue using this poisonous substance in "silver" fillings. Even after exposes on the subject, they continue to lie about the amount of mercury in fillings.

Personally, I also wonder about the necessity of braces for many children. Every time I go to a dentist, they try to push me to get braces, but they can never give me a satisfactory reason why. Why are they so eager to perform this unnecessary procedure on a person who doesn't need it? Luckily, my mother never understood why I should get them and I'm old enough to think for myself and refuse them now. And I have perfectly healthy teeth.
Peggy Duncan says:
May 19, 2009 at 5:11pm
Ms. Baskin, if you need any help setting up whatever you do, let me know. Create a blog, use social media, whatever. Just let me know. You could set up your own TV channel on YouTube, create a blog, enlist help on Twitter, etc. Just let me know.
Lee C. says:
May 19, 2009 at 4:58pm
This is outrageous - that children should be subjected to unnecessary medical procedures for the sake of corporate profit. Where are the state medical licensing agencies in this picture? Do they not have rules against this type of exploitation. If so, are they being enforced so that medical professionals are held accountable? If not then what do we do to make sure these types of abuses cannot be perpetrated against the poor and vulnerable? Yes I have already forwarded this story to my state representative where medical and dental licensing is controlled.
Garen says:
May 19, 2009 at 3:36pm
It's things like this that occasionally make me wonder, "Should I reconsider my opposition to the death penalty".
whit spurgeon says:
May 19, 2009 at 3:22pm
I hate to say it, but the same profit motive that causes one organization to drill the teeth of innocent children causes another one to close down its investigative reporting unit as "a luxury." Once the corporations take over an organization, that organization, be they dental clinic or news center, becomes nothing more than a profit generator -- and if the head office is unhappy with your profit margin, you are considered expendable. This is the real problem we're facing in this new century, and one that won't be easy to overcome, as so many citizens of this country have already had a drink of the Corporate-Think Kool-Aid. And don't think for a minute the corporations won't be delighted to have people like you functioning with fewer resources, Ms. Baskin -- for them it's win-win -- get rid of an unprofitable media center, and get rid of another form of public oversight of corporate abuse at the same time!
Andy says:
May 19, 2009 at 3:15pm
Excellent investigative reporting Mr. Baskin. There are feww things worse than an unscrupulous dentist. Another bone-headed practice is having kids rinse with fluoride. The stuff is highly toxic and at least one child has died.
Anna says:
May 19, 2009 at 2:36am
Our new family dentist, x-rayed my 5 yr old, and said there were 15 tiny cavities he wanted to work on.I am usually quite passive but I insisted in getting a referal to a children's dentist for a 2nd opinion. The children's dentist said there was only 1 he was concerned about and I was right next to her during the procedure. Who in their right mind would want to traumitize children like this?
ghostwriter says:
May 6, 2009 at 7:07pm
I am blown away by these stories. Why any work at all on baby teeth? What is the nutritional deficiency causing such problems? My own kids who are in their 30's didn't go to a dentist with problems until at least after permanent teeth came in.
There is another problem with these corporate dental clinics. My dentist friend left Small Smiles because of the abuse, and now she is in another clinic in which the dentists are not allowed any breaks, not even for lunch. They work 8-9 hours straight with no breaks. If I had little ones now, before making any appointment with a dentist, I would ask about the policy of breaks for their dentists in addition to other questions raised by this article. Imagine the fatigue these dentists experience by the afternoon.
Amy Jo says:
April 29, 2009 at 8:38pm
My sister just told me about this story and I am a mother and hadn't heard about this at all. I had taken my daughter to a dentist like this that didn't allow me to go in with her and I have to say it just made me feel very uncomfortable so I switched her to a dentist that I had found for myself whom is just wonderful with her and gave me a funny look when I asked am I allowed in with her? he said he wouldn't have it any other way. We are on medicaid as well. I am going to send this article to as many people as I can including other news stations especially because when I just asked my daughter a few moments ago about her visits with the first dentist she said it did hurt and she did cry. I feel so guilty not protecting her better now. please get this out to more people it definately needs to be brought to the forefront. We live in Pa and ours wasn't called small smiles but is a childrens dentistry.
Dr. Grace Hadeed says:
April 5, 2009 at 10:52pm
This story is unbelievable. Unfortunately, Medicaid patients are vulnerable because they have so few choices for medical care. I wonder how many other medical practices also take advantage or abuse their Medicaid patients while they are making money. A great article and a great contribution to the care of children. This type of investigative reporting is indeed not a "luxury" but a necessity.
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