Small Smiles, the children's dentistry clinic accused of mistreating its young patients in the pursuit of profit, lost its core patient base on Saturday.
The New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General terminated the Colonie clinic from the Medicaid program, eliminating its federal funding.
"I'm glad they're terminating Small Smiles," said U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a staunch critic of the company. "They don't deserve to be in business and certainly not get any federal money."
On April 1, CBS 6 News first reported the allegations of two former Small Smiles employees who claimed the dentists rush through procedures and perform unnecessary work in hopes of earning "production bonuses."Reader Comments:
The company flatly denied the allegations, calling the report "a striking piece of substandard journalism." In the weeks that followed, however, more than 100 parents called or emailed CBS 6 to share their own Small Smiles horror stories.
The most common allegations included:
-Children receiving as many as eight crowns in a single sitting (all baby teeth)
-Work performed without the use of Novocain or any other numbing agent
-Dentists rushing through procedures, causing children to vomit and urinate themselves
-Children placed in a "papoose" restraint, regardless of whether it was needed
-Parents denied the option of sitting with their children during procedures
-Dirty instruments wiped-off and placed back in the drawer
Sen. Schumer, who has seen news reports documenting similar allegations against Small Smiles clinics in Denver, Rochester, and Washington D.C., bristled at the claims.
"They ought to prosecute some of the people who did this," he said via satellite from Capitol Hill. "This goes beyond a mistake. This is hurting our children and ripping off the federal government...and I think there ought to be a criminal investigation of this."
State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has the power to bring criminal charges against Small Smiles, and a trusted source confirmed that Cuomo's office is investigating.
In addition, the New York State Education Department, which licenses the dentists, has filed a subpoena requesting all of the information CBS 6 uncovered. The station is cooperating.
COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS
Though Small Smiles has now been stripped of its federal funding, Sen. Schumer said there are still safe and reliable alternatives for Medicaid parents: community health centers.
"Our community health centers have a good record," he said. "They're not like this company, they're on the up-and-up, and they often provide the best dental care for the kids who don't have any other way to get dental care."
There are three community health centers in the Capital Region:
1044 State Street, Schenectady
Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Services
920 Lark Drive, Albany
Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Services
6 102nd Street, Troy
1. As a practicing dentist in the Albany area I am both disgusted and yet not surprised at the revelations of goings on at Small Smiles. Dentistry is an art as well as a science. It is also a business. It is very expensive to provide good quality care. Typical overhead costs at a private dental office can be has high as 65-75%. Dentists who practice in such an environment, usually see one patient at a time, or devote a substantial amount of a patient's appointment time in direct care. Dental clinics, often advertise fast appointments, no appointments necessary, reduced fees, dentures in a day...I could go on and on. Bottom line, a typical dental clinic survives by producing as much dentistry as they can as fast as they can. In such an environment, something has to give. Sadly, in many instances
production, production is key to the success of said clinic. Production equals dollars and these dollars can be found either because the dentistry needed is really there or it can be "created" in order to meet production goals of both the individual associate working at the clinic or the clinic as a whole. Sadly, medicaid reimbursements for dental care in
NY State lag so far behind what it realistically costs today to provide said care that some providers "create" dentistry to be done. It appears that this is the case with Small Smiles. The big picture solution to this dilemma is to 1. bring realistic medicaid fee schedules to allow a dental procedure to stand on it's own, i.e. it is profitable for the dentist to provide 2. provide a better watch dog system to oversee that the care is being rendered is, in fact indicated and not simply created. There are dental clinics that operate profitably, ethically and in the best interests of their patients. Sadly, there are too many that don't and as a result the Dental Profession suffers and the general public becomes disenchanted with all the good things that modern dentistry can provide, ultimately hurting the very goal we devoted dental professionals hope to achieve...healthy teeth for a lifetime.
2. I am a mother of four kids and 2 of my 4 sons were going to Small Smiles. For all the time they were attending there I never was allowed in the back till one day when I did go there I seen a family member who said she goes and watches through there glass windows. I said you can do that she said,"NO, but I do". I had no idea these things were going on there. In March he needed a filling for a cavity on a tooth that holds one of his braces and when I took him there he was scared because he was told at the prior appointment that he might need a root canal if the cavity was to deep. First off they had no idea how far the cavity was because you can not take x-rays with braces because all you end up seeing is metal reflections in the pictures. At his March appointment I ended up going back in the room for the first time and I watched and observed things I did not like and realized HEY THAT IS NOT RIGHT. I watched this employee take the tweezers to open all the jars on the counter to get the supplies and then whip off the tweezer with a dry gauze pad. He placed it in the drawer and proceeded to get supplies He pulled out other metals instruments and they were not wrapped like most dentist have them. They asked which flavor gas mask my son wanted and he said a flavor and the Doctor said OH there is a Orange one use that one since it is out. My son did not want that flavor. The doctor proceeded to do his numbing using a needle which now makes me wonder was that clean. He said to my son this will pinch a little. They had him hooked up to the heart rate monitor and I watch as hmy son was scared his heart rate rise but not over 200 or anything. He began to tear up cause the doctor was using a longer needle than he used before according to my son. With braces I know he is already a sensitive person. I told him to hold still as it is almost done. The doctor sat and waited for the meds to kick in during that time noit once did he wash his hands in my sight. He had no gloves on and was wiping his nose and the put on gl;oves never washed his hands or wrists before putting the gloves on. The doctor proceeded with the the work and was drilling and drilling. My son tensed up and started to cry I stood up to hold on to my son and all the doctor kept saying was just a little more just a little more. I have no idea if he needed to drill as deep as he did as he had no xrays to go by. His assistant in the room was a male who acted like a female and had his hands and arm over my sons stomach and kept saying hold on sweetie or hold on baby. My son was uncomfortable at that point also. The time he spent drilling was almost 30 minutes and my son had a red face which was from the tight mask band and crying never allowed him take a rest in between the crying and being upset. When we finally were done he was sore and puffy around his cheeks and lips and very red from crying. When we were going to our car my son said,"MOM was that guy gay because I felt funny when he kept saying what he said to me." He had a hard time eating for 2 days after and remained sore. After this appointment it was less than 2 weeks when wrgb first aired about the story which made me realize that my son was treated like that also. I called my cousin and told her about the news and said "My sons will not be going there every again." I am sorry I put my kids through the HELL they did and I hope they will be able to not be afraid of another dentist again.
3. I am a father of three children that have been patients of Small Smiles and my youngest son which is 4 now but when he was 1 i took him there the dentist capped his four front teeth and when they spoke to me they never told me that they were going to have to cut his upper gums to cap his teeth they told me they can save the teeth by capping them but what happened was the caps rotted his teeth and some fell out and every time they fell out i called there and they told me to come in and they can reglue them back in. My other son that is 11 was taking there and they put crowns on his 2 back teeth and when i asked why they told me it was so they would not get cavities in them. When my youngest son went to the dentist for fillings they put silver filling when i was told they were going to use white and where they get the fillings from the plastic draw on the counter it is wide open the fillings are not covered. When my daughter got work done they numbed her but she still felt it and when she told them it still hurts they continued to finish with out renumbing her. I never recieved a invoice of any type just anoter appointment card.I believe the reason they give the children goodie bags after each appointment is so the childern try to forget what they have done to them. But this is something that a child will never forget. I don't think it is right that when you want to go in with your child and they tell you that you can only if you think your child is going to fight with them doing the work. My youngest son was there and i don't think it was nessary that the restraint blanket was used for him at that time it only scared him more. He came out and told me that he doesn't like it there anymore. Thank you CBS6 for letting all parents know the pain that there children are going through behind closed doors.