Appears Dental One Partners has been doing a bit of “up selling” or should it be put “up diagnosis”. Court Pleadings at the end of article.
N.C. sues DentalWorks, alleges unnecessary treatments pushed, illegal ownership
State officials allege in a lawsuit that the DentalWorks dentistry chain pressured dentists and dental workers at its North Carolina locations to give patients expensive, unnecessary treatments.
The claim is part of a lawsuit the state Board of Dental Examiners filed in Wake County Superior Court on Feb. 18. It says DentalWorks illegally owns dental practices in this state - by law, only a dentist licensed in North Carolina may own a dental practice here - and therefore is illegally practicing dentistry.
A related lawsuit was filed Feb. 18 against DentalWorks by 14 dentists with DentalWorks offices, including two dentists from Cumberland County.
The allegations in both lawsuits paint a picture of patients being taken advantage of to boost profits.
They say DentalWorks used financial incentives, protocols, internal recommendations, warnings of malpractice lawsuits and other pressures to push dentists and hygienists to make diagnoses that patients had gum disease when they did not.
The patients were given unnecessary treatments, leading to excessive billing, the Dental Board says in its lawsuit and in other documents.
The dentists' lawsuit also accuses DentalWorks of pushing them to give patients unneeded veneers and ceramic crowns in order to boost revenues.
State records show that five dentists and a hygienist have been disciplined for their involvement in the gum disease diagnoses and treatments.
Company websites indicate that DentalWorks has more than 150 locations in 14 states, including 30 in North Carolina. DentalWorks is the trade name for Dental One Inc. of Ohio and Texas.
DentalWorks has two locations in Fayetteville and one in Hope Mills.
According to its parent company's website, DentalWorks offers management and marketing assistance to local dental practices. The company says it handles the business side so the dentists can focus on their patients.
The state wants DentalWorks to end its alleged ownership of the North Carolina practices. The 14 dentists say they want a smooth transition leaving them clearly in charge.
DentalWorks has moved the two lawsuits to federal court. It has not issued a formal reply to the allegations.
Corporate lawyer Mark Solls said the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.
"With that said, we are confident that, after the facts are known, the company will be shown to have operated in accordance with North Carolina law and its various agreements," he said.
North Carolina's dental practice ownership law is designed to ensure that patient care takes precedence over profit, said Bobby White, the chief operations officer of the state Dental Board.
The Dental Board enforces the law through litigation. Prosecutors could separately pursue misdemeanor charges.
The Dental Board's lawsuit accuses DentalWorks of lying for nearly 10 years about its relationship with North Carolina practices. Instead of merely managing the practices, the board says, DentalWorks has secretly owned and controlled them.
The practices "are mere shams or legal shells with no financial significance that were created only to create the false and deceptive appearance of compliance with North Carolina law," the lawsuit says. It accuses DentalWorks of taking most to all of the profits from them.
Contracts and other documents prove this ownership, the lawsuit says.
The Dental Board investigated after the 14 dentists came forward with complaints in 2012, the lawsuit says.
Two of those dentists are Eric Roman and Clifton Cameron. They have the DentalWorks offices in Fayetteville and Hope Mills.
Roman, speaking on behalf of all 14 dentists, said in a statement that the lawsuit should not inconvenience patients or affect day-to-day operations at the practices.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday in U.S. District Court in Raleigh.
Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3512.
- Drs.Hughes Aguero & Assoc, PA; BBeatriz R. Aguero, DDS & Associates II, PA et. al. v. Dental One, Inc; Dental Care Partners, Inc. et. al. 13-CV-002407
Complaint and Permanent Injunction:
- North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Dental Care Partners, Inc; Dental One, Inc.; et. al.