Aspen Dental faces class action suit

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A class-action lawsuit accuses Aspen Dental, one of the nation’s largest corporate-dental chains, of illegally owning dental practices and of deceiving patients.

A joint report by the Center for Public Integrity and PBS FRONTLINE titled “Dollars and Dentists” reported in June that Aspen Dental’s practice of serving patients who cannot afford a dentist has led to complaints of patients being locked into debt as well as being overcharged and given unnecessary treatments.

The lawsuit brought by 11 patients alleges that Aspen Dental owns and controls its 358 dental clinics in violation of laws in 22 states which allow only dentists to own a dental practice. The lawsuit was filed yesterday in federal court in Aspen Dental’s home state of New York.

Aspen Dental said Friday that “the accusations that were made in yesterday’s filing are entirely without merit.” The company is owned by a private-equity firm, Leonard Green & Partners, and markets to patients who often cannot afford to go to a dentist.

The company says that it also provides support services to dental offices owned by local dentists.

“The dentists and staff at Aspen Dental offices around the U.S. provide access to high quality, affordable dental care for millions of patients,” the Syracuse-based company said. “Their singular commitment is to do what’s right for their patients.”

However, attorneys for the patients, Brian Cohen and Jeffrey Norton, say in the lawsuit that Aspen Dental trains the dentists and sets production goals for them, accusing the company of illegally practicing medicine.