Dozens of parents have complained that a Georgia dentist ruined their children’s teeth or caused them pain — but the state licensing board waited about three years after a criminal investigation was launched to take any action.
Nicole Carter said her daughter, Somer, was about 1 1/2 years old when Dr. Maheshvar Patel destroyed her baby teeth, requiring three root canals and caps on all of her teeth, and sent her from his office bruised and crying, reported WSB-TV.
“When I looked down, her mouth was just pouring blood,” Carter said. “It was awful, and when I raised her lip up, everything was just hanging on top.”
The family is among several that have filed a malpractice suit against Patel, whose attorney has denied the dentist caused any injuries or damages.
Agents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service and Rome police raided Patel’s office in 2012 to investigate more than 50 complaints, and investigators hired a dental consultant to investigate the pile of medical records.
Police said they immediately reported the criminal investigation to the Georgia Board of Dentistry — but the board took no action until July 2015, when it released a public reprimand.
Prosecutors in Floyd County are still investigating more than four dozen complaints about the dentist.
The reprimand found that Patel was not able to justify treatment of at least 14 patients, including several children, between 2010 and 2012.
Patel also “used inappropriate or excessive restraints, and was overly forceful” while treating children, the board found.
The dentist was placed on probation for three years and fined $11,500 — but Somer Carter’s father said Patel should be permanently barred from dental practice.
WSB-TV examined other cases where dentists were accused of malpractice and found the process that led to Patel’s reprimand was not unusual.
The Georgia Board of Dentistry has revoked the licenses of only six dentists in the past 10 years, despite investigating about 400 complaints a year.
The board has disciplined 11 dentists this year for substandard or unnecessary care, and most of them received probation.
Investigations take an average of four years between the initial complaint and its resolution, the station found.
An attorney who specializes in dental malpractice said the board is not very transparent, so he has no idea what it’s doing until reports are issued years later.
“It’s hard to tell what the board is doing and not doing,” said attorney Robert Fleming.
The board’s chairman said only one investigator investigates all of the hundreds of claims that are filed each year, which he said can be delayed while paperwork is gathered, but he said investigations can be expedited if the dentist is believed to pose a public health threat.
He said patients often wait months or even years to file complaints — but Nicole Carter said she never received a response from the board after filing her complaint.
“I’m disgusted — I really am,” she said.
Patel has left the area and opened a new office about 50 miles away in Marietta, Georgia.
The licensing board will periodically monitor Patel while he is on probation to ensure that he complies with all terms and conditions of his reprimand, and authorities said there have been no new complaints filed against him since the probation order.
Watch this video report posted online by WSB-TV: