Would you know what to do if you found out that your child was abused as a Small Smiles patient?
Small Smiles clinics were one of the few dental facilities that catered to children on Medicaid. Many parents had no choice but to take their children to Small Smiles, since many area dentists only accepted private dental insurance.
With nearly 70 clinics in the United States open at one point, Small Smiles’ goal was to make as much money as possible, as quickly as possible. This meant strapping the kids down in order to work on them faster and performing treatments that were unneeded and unnecessary, before sending the bill off to Medicaid.
Some Small Smiles dental centers even had quotas and “production goals” for the dentists to meet. If the dentists performed work on a certain number of kids within a certain period of time, they would receive a monetary bonus. These bonus opportunities made dentists want to work harder and faster on the kids, even when a child didn’t need certain treatments performed at all.
Some of these unnecessary treatments included:
- Filling cavities that never existed
- Performing root canals on healthy teeth
- Shaving down baby teeth in order to add silver caps, even on the front teeth
- Attaching silver crowns to baby teeth, making it difficult for the adult teeth to grow through
During the treatments, many kids were strapped down with a device called a “papoose.” Also called “stabilizing,” the papoose boards would prevent children from being able to move their arms or their legs. Many children were so frightened that they urinated in their pants or vomited during the procedures.
Since many of the Small Smiles clinics had rules posted forbidding parents to go past the waiting room, many moms and dads had no idea what happening to their kids, until it was too late.
But when some parents furiously spoke against Small Smiles about the way their kids were treated, they were either ignored or the dentists would say things like:
- “These treatments needed to be done.”
- “This wouldn’t happen if you brushed your child’s teeth.”
- “If you don’t agree or if you don’t bring your child back, we will be forced to call Child Services.”
- “Your son’s teeth are bad because you feed him too much candy and soda.”
- “It’s normal for kids to be scared of going to the dentist.”
- “Using a papoose is a common practice and totally acceptable.”
This Has To Stop
Many of the dental hygienists and other assistants working at the Small Smiles clinics knew that what was being done to the children was wrong. Imagine that your job is to hold down a child so that he can be tied to the chair to have his teeth drilled with no pain medication and without Mom there to hold his hand. If you had your own children at home, you would probably feel the urge to stand up and speak out against the horrible treatment.
Some of the assistants did speak out. And then they were fired.
It was many of those fired assistants who went to the local authorities and to the media to tell them what was really going on in the back rooms of the Small Smiles dental clinics.
Once the FBI caught wind of the reports, they decided to launch their own investigation.
The FBI investigation took three years, but they eventually determined that Small Smiles was guilty of performing unnecessary treatment on thousands of children in order to defraud the government by billing Medicaid.
In January 2010, the United States Department of Justice ordered Small Smiles’ parent company, FORBA Holdings LLC, to pay back the $24 million they took from Medicaid in the form of uneccessary dental treatment. The employees who “blew the whistle” and reported Small Smiles received a portion of that money and took home $2 million each as a reward.
But what about the children?
The government took action to get back the money that Small Smiles stole from Medicaid. But what about the unfair treatment and traumatic experiences that the Small Smiles patients were forced to go through?
Children who received horrific treatment as Small Smiles patients may be entitled to bring claims against the Small Smiles dental centers.
Families across the country have filed to claims in order to receive money to compensate the kids for things like:
- The cost of additional dental care. Many children have been told by other dentists that they now need surgery or other procedures to fix the problems caused by Small Smiles.
- The cost of psychotherapy. Children who suffered serious injuries at the hands of adults they should have been able to trust – like dentists – often end up needing rigorous therapy sessions to cure them of their fear and anxiety. This is especially true for those children whose fear was so bad during the treatments that they urinated or vomited, or for kids who have reoccurring nightmares about dentists.
- Pain and suffering. Memories of the horrific events can stay with a child long after the physical pain of a root canal goes away, which is why a victim should be compensated for that distress.
If your child ever visited a Small Smiles dental clinic, call us at 419-241-1395 or 888-888-2110. An assistant knowledgeable in the Small Smiles litigation will gather some information and connect you with a lawyer who will provide you with a free case evaluation. You may also fill out the online form to the right or chat live with one of our representatives.