Drilling Teeth More Lucrative than Drilling for Oil?
February 1, 2010
Operating clinics under the name Small Smiles, as well as others, an investment consortium with ties as far away as Bahrain, has been profiting at the expense of our children. The nationwide chain of dental clinics has been engaging in sinister dental practices, subjecting children to unnecessary procedures, such as filling and capping teeth, pulling teeth and root canals. The practice, first brought to light by a WJLA investigative report in Maryland, has been dubbed "Drilling for Dollars."
Small Smiles and its affiliated dental clinics are owned FORBA (For Better Access), which was acquired by Arcapita Bank out of Bahrain, and American-based funds the Carlyle Group and American Capital Strategy. The investment group acquired FORBA in late 2006 from the DeRose family of Pueblo, Colorado.
In an apparent attempt to raise the sales price of FORBA, which was to be ten-times the estimated pre-tax profits for the company in 2006, FORBA executives exerted immense pressure on their dental clinics to sell services, whether necessary or not. But questionable practices were nothing new to FORBA clinics. Trouble first began back in 2001, when Small Smiles clinics in North Carolina were performing unnecessary root canals and placing caps on children's teeth. When this activity first came to light in 2008, two dentists involved, including Michael DeRose, grandson of Small Smiles founder Bruno DeRose, agreed to pay over $10 million to settle potential civil liability with the state for defrauding Medicaid.
Sadly, this was not an isolated incident. Children's testimonies and horror stories tell a tale of mistreatment at the hands of Small Smiles dentists across the country. Restraints, drilling, unnecessary root canals, and a mouth full of stainless steel caps. Children so upset they vomit during procedures. Radios played loud enough to cover up the screams. Bewildered parents, who are not allowed to accompany the child during the treatments, discover Small Smiles has put a mouthful of steel caps inside their child's mouth instead of the simple filling Small Smiles said their child needed. Not only are some children traumatized and left fearful of dentists, many have ongoing dental problems as a result of the unnecessary, and often poorly performed, procedures.
This fraud has affected taxpayers as well as our children. The federal government recently settled against FORBA Holdings, LLC., in the amount of $24 million plus interest, to resolve allegations that it caused bills to be submitted to state Medicaid programs for medically unnecessary dental services it performed.
The $24 million paid out by FORBA in early January 2010 does not bring an end to the story, however. While some states have been compensated by the fraud carried out by FORBA and their employees, many families are still left hurting, wanting justice for the fraud perpetrated upon them and to put an end to Small Smiles' practices once and for all.