National News

DOJ investigating children's dental chain "Kool Smiles"

Posted January 12, 2018 11:27 a.m. EST

— A national children's dental chain with several offices in Connecticut, is paying millions of dollars to settle a federal lawsuit.

The Justice Department says Kool Smiles performed unnecessary dental procedures on kids, and Medicaid was picking up the tab.

This is not just a Connecticut investigation. Kool Smiles was found to have submitted false claims in 17 states.

According to the Justice Department, they knowingly did procedures that were not necessary because they knew the government would pay for them.

The dental clinics are designed for children and are mostly in underserved neighborhoods.

There are at least five Kool Smiles in Connecticut.

The national chain just settled a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit for doing things like baby root canals and tooth extractions that were not needed.

The Justice Department says patients and parents were pressured and dentists were given cash bonuses based on how many procedures they did.

It's not clear if the Hartford office was involved in the federal investigation.

In a statement, Kool Smiles and Benevis, their management company, said "the companies are disappointed that reasonable disagreement between dentists can become a (false claims act) or FCA case," and they have "complete confidence in Kool Smiles dentists and the quality and level of care they provide."

Employees became whistleblowers, telling investigators how procedures were being done to get Medicaid to pay for them.

Howard Schwartz from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau said we trust doctors, but we should also find out more about what they want to do and why.

"When a dentist practitioner says they require certain procedures, you should be asking and why and the should show you why," Schwartz said.

Out of the nearly $24 million paid by these companies, more than $9 million will be given back to individual states to return monies to Medicaid.

As for the whistleblowers in the case, they were rewarded. Three will receive payments of more than $2 million.