Published: Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 9:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 9:03 p.m.
Days after state authorities suspended the license of a local dentist who allegedly mistreated a young patient, critics of Dr. Michael Addair Tarver continue to go public with their own stories.
One of those people is Kristina Pate, a dental assistant who worked at Tarver's Polliwog Dental for two months before she was terminated, she said, for speaking out about Tarver's methods.
Pate said every child who came into the practice received nitrous oxide, or laughing gas. She estimates roughly 75 percent of the children seen by Tarver also were given Demerol ???.
Some of the children, she said, were strapped onto boards to keep them still. If Tarver felt they were misbehaving in any way, they were threatened, she said.
Those on Medicaid were treated much differently from those who paid out of pocket, she said.
Pate said those who paid up front or had insurance were treated quickly and sent on their way. Medicaid patients, she said, had to wait longer. Parents of those on Medicaid had to wait about three hours before their child was finished.
She said her then-1-year-old daughter had a problem with her front tooth, and Tarver thought the tooth should be pulled. Pate, whose child was on Medicaid, said she got a second opinion and the problem was fixed without an extraction having to be performed.
Pate also complained that the children were unsupervised in the back area because no one was there to watch them. She said employees asked Tarver to hire someone to take care of the children, but he refused, telling them that it was their responsibility.
She said they could not watch the children and do their jobs at the same time.
At the time she was fired, Pate said, "I was scared" because he told the staff that if they talked, he would sue them.
The Florida Department of Health, responding to a patient complaint, suspended Tarver's dental license Wednesday.
In a 10-page report that accompanied the suspension order, DOH officials detailed a case in which a 4-year-old girl stopped breathing during a dental procedure and had to be resuscitated. The girl's parents were never notified, and Tarver logged the incident in the girl's records as a period of "brief apnea."
Health investigators noted that after they opened their inquiry, Tarver went in and electronically changed the girl's records.
In their strongly worded suspension order, they said Tarver "demonstrates that he cannot reasonably be expected to comply with any sanction short of suspension."
Tarver, in email messages sent to the Star-Banner, has flatly denied the accusations and said he has hired an attorney to fight the accusations.
Although the suspension is based on a single incident, a number of former patients have complained publicly about Tarver, and several have taken their complaints to police.
Ocala police released reports from four complaints they had received on allegations of possible child abuse.
In each case, parents said they took their children — ranging in age from 18 months to 7 years — to Tarver's office at 255 SE 17th St., Ocala, for procedures and later said there were signs of abuse.
Two of the four cases also were sent to the state Department of Health.
Detectives investigated the complaints and sent their findings to the State Attorney's Office for review. Prosecutors said the cases did not meet the criteria for child abuse.
One parent has been unable to get in touch with Tarver since he performed a procedure on her 9-year-old daughter on Wednesday. Mildred Colon said she rushed her daughter to the emergency room later that night after the girl complained of pain, numbness and difficulty swallowing.
Colon said when she went to Polliwog on Thursday to get her daughter's dental record, it was closed. She said employees hid when they saw her. She called the office repeatedly, and when someone finally answered the phone on Friday, she was told Tarver and his wife, Dr. Rebecca Tarver, also a dentist at the facility, were on a cruise.
Colon said inside her daughter's mouth is black and blue and doctors put her on antibiotics.
"This is very serious," she said.
In an email to the Star-Banner on Saturday, Tarver said he had planned the cruise a year ago but never went. He said he had planned to close the office on Thursday and Friday about a year in advance. Asked when it will be reopened, he said his wife will be in on Monday.
He declined to answer any other questions, saying he will "have much more news" next week.
Another parent, Julie Casabo, said her adopted 9-year-old son cracked his front tooth in June and went for treatment at Polliwog. She said her son's tooth was reshaped. He was woozy and could hardly walk when he was released, she said.
Casabo said her son had a seizure that night, so his father rushed him to Express Care of Ocala for treatment. He has since recovered, but Casabo said the boy is "traumatized" by the experience.
She said she called Tarver and told him about the seizure. Casabo said Tarver told her that her child is seizure-prone and he will mark it on his chart.
Dr. Michael Addair Tarver, DDS dental license number DN18670 indicate no previous disciplinary actions by the Florida Dental Board, however his record does show an “emergency suspension” dated September 4, 2013.
From Polliwog Children’s Dentistry Website:
Dr. Mike was born in Lakeland, FL. He attended Wake Forest University where he majored in finance and accounting and earned his CPA license. After a brief stint in the finance industry, Mike attended Tufts School of Dental Medicine and the University of Florida where he specialized in Pediatric Dentistry. Dr. Mike enjoys sailing, skiing, model airplanes, full scale airplanes, and hanging out with his wife Rebecca and brother Jordan. Dr. Mike is an Airline Transport Pilot and is certified flight instructor. He is passionate about high quality, caring and gentle dental care for your child or teenager!
Dr. Rebecca Tarver (Dr. Rebecca), General Dentist for Kids and Teens
Dr. Rebecca is Dr. Mike’s wife. They met in dental school in Boston and it was love at first sight! Dr. Rebecca is from Tuscon, AZ and attended the University of California, Berkeley and Tufts School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Rebecca loves reading, boating, fishing and traveling. She brings her knowledge of advanced restorative techniques to the practice along with her compassion and love of children! Rebecca loves our cat Piper, a wild but tame “lap leopard” Bengal.
A secondary location is also listed on Tarver’s dental license – Dentistry For Children, 1111 NE Parkway Frontage Road, Lakeland, Florida 33803, home of Dr. Harry Bopp, DMD and Dr. Jordan Tarver, DMD.