Each state protects its citizens through a board of dentistry that holds every dentist accountable for dental care provided in the office(s) they own. Although it’s rare, accountability becomes important when a patient accuses a dentist of a transgression. Today, corporately owned and/or managed dental offices, falling outside the protective clutches of state dental boards, are making patient protection effectiveness more difficult to understand.
In 2012, Bloomberg News reported alleged abuse and overtreatment of children by dentists employed by Private Equity owned dental clinics. In the report, was a story about how a 4 year old boy treated at school suffered baby teeth root canals and crowns that, according to his mother, were not needed and performed without permission. According to the article’s author, Sydney Freedberg, “Management companies are at the center of allegations of…unnecessary procedures, low quality treatment, and the unlicensed practice of dentistry.” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-17/dental-abuse-seen-driven-by-private-equity-investments.html. Dental Management Service Organizations, known as DMSOs, are corporations often funded, owned and/or managed by Private Equity companies. State dental boards have no jurisdiction over their activities and do not regulate them.
Regulatory Protection Caught between Teeth & Profits?
Also reported by Bloomberg, U.S. Senators Grassley and Baucus have questioned whether one Private Equity owned dental chain under federal investigation has focused “more on achieving self-imposed quotas via assembly line service than proper patient care,” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-31/republicans-target-dental-bill-that-private-equity-hates.html. Dentists are obligated by law to provide dental care that restores and/or maintains health, and not recommend or provide services beyond patient needs and desires. Accusations are, dentists in corporate dental offices might be providing treatment that patients don’t actually need, placing the profit needs of corporations over of the clinical needs of patients, as in the sad story of the 4 year old boy. Unlike a private practice dentist, a separate corporate entity such as a DMSO operates outside the jurisdiction of state dental board accountability. Continue reading about The UnRegulating of Patient Protection