Dental Care Provider Threatens Parents With State Intervention If They Don't Set Up Appointments For Their Kids

from the no-carrots-here,-buddy,-just-a-big-borrowed-stick dept

A Pennsylvania dentist clinic has manage to destroy its reputation with a tactic it thought might actually drum up some business. Letters sent to parents by Smiles 4 Keeps suggested the dental clinic would get law enforcement involved if the company didn't see an uptick in new appointments.

The letter, posted here by Twitter user @_NotYourMom, makes it clear the Smiles 4 Keep has interpreted Pennsylvania's child abuse reporting statutes to mean it can report parents to state authorities for not partaking of the clinic's services often enough.

Here are the relevant parts of the heavy-handed threats Smiles 4 Keeps has been sending to parents.

According to law, failure to bring your child for dental care is considered neglect. Pennsylvania Act 31 states that health care providers must report your failure to bring your child to the dentist for evaluation and care… Smiles 4 Keeps has not report [sic] your child's outstanding dental treatment, as of yet.

[...]

To keep your child as healthy as possible and avoid a report to state authorities, please call Smiles 4 Keeps immediately to schedule a treatment appointment within the next 30 days.

First off, the statute cited only requires entities designated by the state as "mandatory reporters" of child abuse (which includes a very long list of public and private entities) to take continuing education classes on identifying and reporting child abuse. It does not require a dental clinic to turn parents in for not keeping their kids on a tight preventative maintenance schedule. There's a whole lot of distance between a few missed dental appointments to things the state considered to be possible evidence of neglect or abuse.

This letter is thuggery that hopes to prey on the ignorant. It threatens parents with being reported to the state as child abusers, even though the clinic has nothing more than a few missed checkups to offer as evidence. Abusing a child abuse law to increase office visits is an abhorrent tactic, one that indicates the clinic cares more about steady income than actually looking out for abused children.

If this bogus reporting does start occurring, it will be a tremendous burden on parents. It will likely have zero negative effect on the clinic, outside of its swift reputational decline. The mandated reporting law immunizes reporting entities from civil or criminal penalties. But the reporting must be done in good faith to qualify for this immunity, and Smiles 4 Keep's threats are definitely a detriment to any good faith claims it might try to raise. It could certainly be argued this letter shows any reporting of parents by this clinic was done to increase office visits (and income), rather than because employees actually witnessed signs of abuse.

Smiles 4 Keeps has gone mostly silent since its letters began making the rounds on social media. It has only offered a couple of contradictory comments. The first comment basically says that Smiles 4 Keeps is right and everyone else is wrong.

No one at the local dentists' offices would agree to talk on camera but an email from a corporate spokesperson writes, "It's been a tough week" and that the letter has been, "grossly misinterpreted."

The second says the letter that was "grossly misinterpreted" by recipients and commenters will be rewritten. Seems like it shouldn't need to be overhauled if it's just a matter of everyone reading the right words but drawing the wrong conclusions.

A Smiles 4 Keeps spokesperson says she does not know how many of these letters were sent but that it reported 17 cases of neglect last year. She adds that the company plans to rewrite the letter because of feedback from around the country.

Hopefully, the new letter will only say what letters from thousands of dental providers say: "Hey, you skipped a checkup. Can we set one up for you soon to get you back on track?" There's no need to bring the law into it. Dental providers are required to report possible abuse, but this reporting requirement should not be used to blackmail people into spending more money at your place of business. Future letters should make zero references to the mandated reporting statute because it has zero relevance to the task at hand: informing customers of periodic checkups and cleanings and leaving it to the customers to set up appointments.

Filed Under: child abuse, dental care, dentist appointments, reputation, threats
Companies: smiles 4 keeps


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 9:52am

    Most states have their child abuse reporting system set up to screen out certain types of reports. A report saying "they haven't brought their kid in this year" would result in a quick interrogation of "were they scheduled to? did they miss an appointment? is this missed appointment medically necessary due to the state of the kid's dental health?", and since the (honest) answers in this case are no, no, and no, the report would quickly be filed in the "not investigating" category. (Also, hotlines often have the ability to flag a reporter as malicious at a certain point.)

    The real impact would be on the hotline's call numbers; and the ability of that provider to report TRUE abuse, should they be flagged as malicious. (Of course, all this assumes the office would be honest in their reporting, and would not be reporting anonymously.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:03am

      Trust the bureaucrats

      Most states have their child abuse reporting system set up to screen out certain types of reports.

      Trust the bureaucrats. The bureaucrats know their jobs. The bureaucrats do their jobs well.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        ryuugami, 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:26am

        Re: Trust the bureaucrats

        Trust the bureaucrats. The bureaucrats know their jobs. The bureaucrats do their jobs well.

        I see your sarcasm. I guess we should trust private companies and services instead. They are almost certain not to abuse their customers, or threaten them.

        Oh wait.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:52am

          Re: Re: Trust the bureaucrats

          the rule should be simply "Trust Nobody".

          Everybody lies. The question is not "if", it is "when" and "about what".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:52am

          Re: Re: Trust the bureaucrats

          I see your sarcasm.

          It's not sarcasm. It's a motivational slogan.

          Somewhere not in Kansas, it'd be painted in bright, strong red letters, on the wall of a modern, industrial factory — to cheer up all the workers and peasants.

          It's a cheerful motivational slogan.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 12:08pm

            Re: Re: Re: Trust the bureaucrats

            The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care.

            It's a problem of motivation, all right. Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime - so where's the motivation? And here's something else, Bob, I have eight different bosses right now.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          pegr, 27 Mar 2018 @ 11:28am

          Re: Re: Trust the bureaucrats

          I can choose my dentist, just like all of the parents of Smiles 4 Keep patients are doing right now.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 11:09am

        Re: Trust the bureaucrats

        ...

        So I have no idea if you're being ironic on a level I simply can't comprehend with my three-dimensional brain, because you are making this comment in response to an article about a private corporation threatening customers under the color of law, for its own benefit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:11am

      Re:

      Also ask . . . do you also have direct knowledge that the parents are not taking their kids to a DIFFERENT dentist? And that they do not intend to get their kids any kind of dental care?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bruce C., 27 Mar 2018 @ 4:29pm

      Re:

      Yes, apart from the thuggery, the potential waste of the barely adequate taxpayer dollars and investigator time that most states allot to their child welfare services is a huge cause for concern.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 9:55am

    misinterpreted ? I don't think so and they did not mention want it is they want me to think they were saying.

    Is this dentist now going to use the EULA anti-bad review business tactic? Might as well go down in flames.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 9:57am

    A parent isn't required to report to a dental clinic that they've taken their business elsewhere or even that the child is deceased or living with a different parent or any other number of scenarios that could involve not making an appointment for the child at that specific clinic. So the clinic is basically saying that they know for certain that missed appointments are neglect instead one of a thousand other possibilities and they're willing to fuck up someone's life to make an extra buck.

    By all means, if the kid comes in and shows signs of abuse, report that. Not coming in is not evidence. It's lack of evidence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      zboot (profile), 28 Mar 2018 @ 8:56am

      Re:

      They've actually reported people. You may have missed the part in the article that says:

      "Smiles 4 Keeps spokesperson says she does not know how many of these letters were sent but that it reported 17 cases of neglect last year".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:12am

    What I want to see

    I am anxious to see the positive effect this letter is going to have on this dentist's business. I'm sure parents are very enthusiastic about using this particular dentist now that this letter has been sent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:19am

    The only thing missing from this is PRBro...or is that a spoiler alert for next week?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:22am

    How would they know that a parent hasn't taken their child to a different dentist?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:27am

      Re:

      if i were a dentist in that vicinity i would announce that my office doesn't engage in bogus reporting.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 11:17am

      Re:

      Because this is not about the child's welfare. They're not going to actually report someone, because if they did then they'd have to explain on what basis they believe the child is endangered. Which they can't prove, because they haven't even seen or spoken to the child or parent. The whole point of the threatening leater is to scare parents into taking children in to Smiles 4 Keeps, so that Smiles 4 Keeps makes more money.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:23am

    cares more about steady income

    when i was a child it wasn't that unusual for a dr to make a house call if it was prudent. it makes me really sad to think what has happened to medicine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:28am

    That's what I would call "suicide in the most Streisand way possible".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:39am

      Re:

      I agree, I don't see why anyone would do business with that office again.

      Should be interesting to see how long it stays open after this point.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:32am

    Unjustice for all

    You overestimate the integrity of Child Welfare and the justice system.

    All of the injustices that you have reported in law enforcement over the years can be multiplied by a thousand in Child Welfare. You just can't see it because the courts are secret.

    Under federal guidelines, Child Welfare funding and Juvenile Justice funding are directly proportional to case load. There is no such thing as punishing a false reporter. It has never happened.

    What do you think CPS and the judge are going to do, give Medicaid back the money they unjustly collected from processing a false report?

    CPS double dips - they collect federal money for indigents, and turn around and assess child support for a child in foster care after parental rights are terminated, up until the child is adopted. Then throw the parent in jail for over a year without a lawyer.

    Granted, the majority are involved in substance abuse, but the cards are stacked against parents from day one, and there is no turning back, no matter how innocent the original complaint was.

    This is no joking matter. Losing children to the system forever is no comparison to having a felony on your record from a plea bargain when you are innocent. It is a thousand times worse.

    There are a number of websites on Fighting CPS.
    ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ibettheywantit, 27 Mar 2018 @ 11:01am

      Re: Unjustice for all

      I would venture to guess that they actually encourage it to happen as much as possible. Padding the numbers so to speak.. They can proudly wave their numbers at the budget writers saying we need more .. more... more.. and then they can also lobby for more new laws saying the existing ones are not sufficient. The case loads show this.
      Self feeding fire - left alone - it will consume all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 28 Mar 2018 @ 7:28am

      Re: Unjustice for all

      > Then throw the parent in jail for over a year without a
      > lawyer.

      CPS can't throw you in jail and deny you access to a lawyer. CPS isn't the CIA and they're not sending people to Guantanamo or renditioning people to black sites in Egypt or Sudan.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 27 Mar 2018 @ 10:35am

    "Pennsylvania Act 31 states that health care providers must report your failure to bring your child to the dentist for evaluation and care"

    Umm...isn't this a bit of a problem for the Amish?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rekrul, 27 Mar 2018 @ 3:50pm

      Re:

      Umm...isn't this a bit of a problem for the Amish?

      Two words: Religious exemption.

      Actually, from what I've read on the net, the Amish are claimed to have healthier teeth on average than non-Amish, due to their healthier lifestyle. They will go to the dentist to have problem teeth pulled, or even to have all their teeth pulled and replace them with dentures. They consider it more practical and cost effective than spending a lifetime caring for teeth.

      People think the Amish shun all facets of modern life, but they really just don't believe in making their lives unnecessarily easier. They will use manual plows, but if a farmer gets old and can no longer plow his fields manually, he may be allowed, or even told to buy a tractor. Reportedly most Amish communities even have a telephone for use in emergencies.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DB (profile), 29 Mar 2018 @ 3:31pm

        Re: Re:

        It might be more accurate to say that the Amish only accept technology that has unquestioned benefit. They keep their lives as simple as is reasonable, minimizing the intrusion of technology rather than rejecting it outright.

        Their standard for simplicity is often misunderstood, but it usually makes sense if you have all of the details.

        In the area I grew up, Amish households often had electricity and sometimes phone service. There was electricity to the barn, especially if it was a dairy farm. Electricity to the house was limited to a porch light and a nearby outdoor outlet. Any phone was mounted on the outside, in an outbuilding or in the barn. The view was that you needed electric lighting to safely work in a barn, but you didn't need an electric toaster.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 27 Mar 2018 @ 11:04am

    It's nice to know that the dentist who killed that lion will have someone to talk to at trade shows.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 11:10am

    beware the used-car salesman in a labcoat

    People need to be aware that some dentists use high-pressure and deceptive sales tactics to increase their business, which is basically separating fools from their money.

    It's amazing that this dentist is still in business instead of in prison:

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/scientology/scientology-benefits-when-miami-dentist-runs-up-patient-bil ls/1135436

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sehlat (profile), 27 Mar 2018 @ 11:34am

    Pennsylvania Dental Association?

    Might they not take a wee bit of umbrage at this sort of vicious tomfoolery?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    docrailgun, 27 Mar 2018 @ 12:22pm

    Seems like a job...

    ... for the Popehat Signal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 12:47pm

    The dentists also fought fluoride

    because it reduced cavities.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 1:51pm

    Give these guys a break, when the family comes in, the dentist makes sure that they also get an extra prescription of opioids as an apology.

    The article did say that they had reported 17 families last year. Hell, if the law was the same and these guys were in England, half the fucking country there would be in jail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    McGyver (profile), 27 Mar 2018 @ 2:30pm

    Well, I guess they got one of those letters warning you that you could be held liable for not having home repair insurance... Or that one that says your car's warranty is about to expire (even though you sold it three years ago) and you need to buy their extended coverage or your regular auto insurance company will drop you, or any of a ton of other variants of this scammy shit.
    Only instead of laughing or tearing up the letter, they decided to try their own version of it.
    Nothing is being "grossly misinterpreted" here... It's quite clear they hoped to cash in by threatening and misleading people.
    A financial and legal asskicking is in order here.
    The more this shit is excused or glossed over, the more entrenched and blatant it becomes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tin-foil-hat, 27 Mar 2018 @ 2:30pm

    A Good Reason to Stay Away

    If they reported me I would just tell CPS that I was going to a different dentist because that one gives off a child molestor vibe. I would never do that but a really pissed off parent might.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2018 @ 3:26pm

    Oh, there's that pesky "good faith" again!

    Minion states: "the reporting must be done in good faith to qualify for this immunity".

    CDA Section 230 also requires "good faith" of serving The Public to obtain immunities: it's not license for mega-corporations to control persons and opinions.

    ON-topic because "good faith" is ALWAYS relevant.

    And there's no other interest to be found in this anomaly which has been covered everywhere else and is already over; it's just Techdirt with usual late "me too".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Mar 2018 @ 3:29pm

    'That's a nice family you got there...'

    Hopefully, the new letter will only say what letters from thousands of dental providers say: "Hey, you skipped a checkup.

    After a stunt like this hopefully there won't be any more letters, as they'll have gone completely under and closed down for good. Attempted extortion to drum up business should always result in no business at the very least.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 27 Mar 2018 @ 4:19pm

    Are they the only dental practice in the area?

    I don't have kids, but I would probably send them a letter saying;

    "To whom it may concern,

    Where I take my children for dental care is none of your business. For your information, I have been taking them to a different practice where they get better treatment than your clinic provides. Trying to blackmail me into bringing my children to your practice could be considered a crime and any more letters threatening me for not bringing my business to you will be turned over to the police and my lawyer. I will be sure to tell everyone I know with children to avoid your hostile and unethical service."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Mar 2018 @ 12:37am

    Change Dental Providers...

    .. and sue for defamation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Apollo Clinic Chandigarh, 31 Mar 2018 @ 5:59am

    Depend on Region

    its all depend on which region u live

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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