Jul 28, 2013
When Quintoya Seawright’s 3-year-old daughter, Destiny, chipped a baby tooth in November 2010, the young mother took her to the Small Smiles clinic in Montgomery. Quintoya, 25, would end up taking her daughter to the clinic four times that month.
On the last visit on Nov. 9, her daughter was strapped to a board for an hour while the dentist struggled to place two stainless steel caps on baby teeth while her daughter screamed and struggled, saying she could still feel it, the family said.
But without much money, the young mother had to rely on Medicaid to pay for her daughter’s care. Small Smiles specializes in treating children eligible for Medicaid. The company operates another clinic in Dothan.
The large dental chain is owned by a private equity firm and is managed by Nashville-based CSHM LLC. A report released by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee last week claims Small Smiles and clinics like it are motivated by profit, often performing unnecessary procedures, and should be removed from the Medicaid program.
The report also says the clinics are operating in violation of laws in 22 states, including Alabama, that ban anyone other than a licensed dentist from owning a practice. The report states that CSHM actually owns and operates the clinics, and not the “owner” dentists the company enlists to skirt to get around those state laws.
Quintoya said she was never allowed to go back with her daughter to watch the procedures at Small Smiles, but the 3-year-old girl’s grandmother, Sophia, demanded she be allowed on the girl’s last trip.
Destiny began pulling at her mouth, so workers strapped her arms and legs to the board, then the dentist struggled for an hour to place the two caps on the tiny baby teeth while Destiny “kept saying she still felt it. He said, ‘No. She’s numb. It’s just the noise,’” said Sophia.
“Her heart was just beating so fast,” Sophia said. “The lady was holding her head down and was trying to get her to open her mouth by squeezing her nose.”
Destiny had a total of five stainless steel caps placed on baby teeth over four visits. One cap fell out along with the tooth a couple weeks later. Quintoya said she never heard the dentist say her daughter had cavities in those teeth, but he said the caps would help prevent them from forming.
“I’m not sure if it was a necessity to have all those silver things in her mouth,” Sophia said.