- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2014

Children of New York, watch out — the dentists are coming for your teeth.

Investigators at the Health and Human Services Department are warning that some dentists are starting to perform unnecessary procedures on kids — and turning a profit by billing the government for it.

“In recent years, a number of dentists and dental chains have been prosecuted for providing unnecessary dental procedures to Medicaid children, as well as for causing harm to children while performing these procedures,” said the department’s inspector general said in a report released Wednesday.

Investigators found problems with only 3 percent of the dentists they examined, but noted that those 23 general dentists and six orthodontists accounted for Medicaid payments worth $13.2 million in 2012.

In addition, a third of those practitioners belong to a dental chain that’s already had to settle lawsuits “for providing services that were medically unnecessary or that failed to meet professionally recognized standards of care to children,” the IG said.

The dentists have “received extremely high payments per child; provided an extremely large number of services per child; or provided certain selected services, such as pulpotomies or extractions, to an extremely high proportion of children,” the watchdog noted, and said that New York state must maintain its vigilance to guard against such practices.

Medicaid is the primary source of dental coverage for many low-income families, providing dental care for an estimated 35 million kids.