IMPACT: 'Dentists' probe leads to new Texas law

Statute gives broader authority to state board, requires new data on corporate dental chains

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A new Texas law will give regulators more power to crack down on dentists performing unnecessary treatments, especially on children.

A spokesman for the bill’s author — Republican State Rep. Lois W. Kolkhorst of Brenham, Texas — said the law came about largely because of a joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and PBS Frontline. The investigation revealed a pattern of questionable practices by Kool Smiles, a chain focused on Medicaid-provided dental care for children. The spokesman also credited independent reporting by Dallas station WFAA-TV on Medicaid fraud.

The joint investigation by the Center and Frontline, titledDollars and Dentists,” quoted former employees who alleged that dentists at Kool Smiles were encouraged by company production standards to put more expensive stainless-steel crowns, rather than fillings, on cavities in baby teeth. Kool Smiles denies those allegations.

“As a mother of two children, I was shocked to learn that in 2010 there were estimated to be over 15,000 Texas children who were given inappropriate dental care, including braces on baby teeth,” Kolkhorst said in a statement.

Kolkhorst said only one dentist had has his license revoked for Medicaid fraud or patient complaints in the past two years. “That’s just not acceptable,” she added.

The law beefs up the ability of the state dental board to investigate complaints. It also gives parents the right to be in the room with their children while they are at the dentist.

In addition, dentists working for corporate dental chains are required to report information about the chains to the dental board. Currently, the state maintains no information about dental chains.

Gov. Rick Perry signed the bill last week. It takes effect on Jan. 1.