After countless children experienced severe, life-threatening bacterial and bone infections upon being exposed to dirty water during pulpotomy procedures at the Children’s Dental Group in Anaheim, California, their families are beginning to fight back by filing a civil lawsuit against the clinic. Among other charges, the initial lawsuit alleges the clinic engaged in fraudulent behavior and medical malpractice through means of intimidation by performing unnecessary pulpotomies, otherwise known as “baby root canals,” which have so far resulted in 57 children developing infections, including relentless and extremely dangerous abscesses, requiring treatment of their necks and jaws, with many having been subjected to further serious, painful and expensive surgeries. It has been estimated those affected have reached the hundreds, thus prompting the decision to take legal action.
The issue first came to light in September of 2016 after numerous children wound up in the hospital after being treated at the facility, which effectively resulted in the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) conducting an investigation into the clinic’s water used during dental treatment. They successfully identified the presence of mycrobacteria in the system and issued an immediate order to stop using the water and replace the system before resuming further care. As a result of the findings, the Orange County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay $150,000 to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) in October of 2016 to help cover the costs of treatment for the children admitted for infections who had been exposed to the water at the center.
The civil lawsuit, filed November 4 on behalf of a 6-year-old child with autism and his family (with at least a half dozen more plaintiffs expected to join) by attorney Catherine Lombardo, alleges the clinic’s primary focus was profit over patient. Speaking to the press, Lombardo said, “They strap the children down on papoose boards, they extract teeth that do not need to be extracted. This is a high-volume, high-profit clinic that cares about one thing … money.”
In the case of 6-year-old Leo Sanchez, he allegedly underwent two unnecessary pulpotomies without any local anesthesia, having been strapped into a “straight-jacket” like device during the procedures. His parents were purportedly unaware of what was happening, and did not provide consent for the staff to take such action.
The Children’s Dental Clinic primarily serves economically disadvantaged, principally Hispanic families, charging between $500-$1,000 per baby root canal. Lombardo stated the practice encourages the needless procedures in order to bilk as much money from their insurance providers as possible without regard to the children and their overall health and well-being.
Another soon-to-be plaintiff, 4-year-old Nairi Amador, has suffered infections in her teeth, bones, tissue and gums. She currently has tubes connected to her chest that automatically administer extremely strong antibiotics to her system in order to prevent further infection while treating her existing ones. Her father, Ramon Amador, said, “She has a lot of pain, on the neck, on the cheeks, on everything. She wants to go to school, she can’t, she can’t play with her brothers, she can’t do nothing, she needs to stay in the bed.” Nairi currently has only three teeth left in her mouth after her experience with the group.
In September of 2016, the Children’s Dental Group released a statement in response to allegations of providing inadequate dental healthcare, claiming, “We follow industry standard sterilization and preventative practices, and use state-of-the-art equipment to protect the health and safety of our patients. Upon seeing this we began a review and testing of our systems, equipment, water and other elements in the office.”
They have released an additional response to news of the lawsuit with a statement that read, “We provide this service and do this work because we care for children, and we deeply regret that any patient had complications following treatment here. We have not been served with any complaint.”
There is no word on whether or not the clinic has complied with the order to replace their water system, though they remain open for business. This story will be updated as it progresses.