Dentist Clarifies Controversial Letter to Parents

BARTONSVILLE, Pa. -- The founder of a pediatric dental practice is responding to criticism of a warning letter sent to a few parents and guardians of their patients.

On Friday, we reported on that letter from Smiles 4 Keeps. It threatened to report parents for neglect if they did not make follow-up appointments with the dentist.

Dr. Ross Wezmar says he and his fellow dentists have been targeted with harsh criticism for that controversial letter to some parents.

Instead of criticism, Dr. Wezmar believes his dental team should be getting a pat on the back.

"People who got upset by that letter, they don't understand that dental problems can very rapidly turn into a very serious medical problem."

He says that includes problems like infections and severe illnesses.

Dr. Wezmar has a practice in Bartonsville. He says Smiles 4 Keeps is the first dental firm in the U.S. to write harshly worded letters to some parents they believe are responsible for severe dental problems from neglect.

The veteran dentist says he now sees child patients almost every day with severe problems.

"It's only getting worse, unfortunately. And it's getting younger. The kids that are getting the care are getting younger," said Dr. Wezmar.

Smiles 4 Keeps has offices in Scranton, Bartonsville, and Wilkes-Barre Township.

Dr. Wezmar says dental problems stemming from neglect may be worse in northeastern and central Pennsylvania than most of the U.S.

Dr. Wezmar says the problems are not from poor diets, but from bacteria that quickly can turn into decay, creating more problems for kids as young as 6 months old.

"We see at least once a week a kid coming in with his eyes swollen shut, who had missed an appointment and didn't follow up."

That brings him back to that controversial letter. It was criticized online nationwide and by dentists locally, for lines like, "to keep your child as healthy as possible and to avoid a report to state authorities, please call Smiles 4 Keeps immediately to schedule an appointment."

Dr. Wezmar defends what critics call threatening language.

"We really have to jar the parent to realize that with a child comes responsibility," he said. "We want to make sure they understand it is a serious problem."

Dr. Wezmar says the letter in question was sent to 17 parents last year.

He adds Smiles 4 Keeps will likely rewrite the letter so people can conclude this is only being sent to parents the dental practice believes are putting their kids at risk by neglecting serious dental problems.

12 comments

  • akotner

    If this dentist is really concerned with the dental care of his patients let him work for free. Until then, he is nothing more than a bully trying to make money.

  • Susan Cobb

    It is good to let all parents know that the state really owns their children. Many now suffer from delusions that their children belong to them and that they have primary responsibility to the God who gave them. This is a little bit of a shock perhaps, but knowing the truth is better than having false peace and security by believing one has constitutional freedoms, the ability to freely choose to solicit a health care provider, or even get a second opinion without losing your child forever.
    Title IVe federal incentives for adoption has accomplished a lot these last twenty years in providing the funds for the infrastructure to keep “the village” well supplied. Going upwards of 20 billion annually, the well has not dried up yet. Social Security is inexhaustible, right? Medical care providers are getting more brazen and audacious in their representation of their power and who they know themselves to be in this “village”. The letter is an accurate threat. We can now add Dentists to the list of those who are now just as dangerous as physicians in hospitals. Parentectomy. Believe it.

  • Michele Wasylyk

    I’ve taken my child to this dentsit and I would not recommend them to anyone. She is now scared to death when she goes to the dentist. She goes to one that is so awesome and gentle and she still cries and she’s 10. She was 5 when she went to Dr. Wezmar.

  • Dave Pollack

    I had one dentist report to children an youth that my kid hasn’t gone to the dentist in over 6 months but the dentist didn’t call us or anything. We took my kid to a different dentist because they did not have a good experience with the first dentist so they were up to date on dental work when children an youth came. I think it is wrong and an abuse of power but at the same token if there teeth are not taken care of it can affect them the rest of there life. I think the school should be the one to address any problems not the doctor

  • Rusty Knyffe

    Perhaps, our erudite commentators who have taken a pissy attitude against this pediatric dentist might keep this one fact in mind before they spout off in a complete display of ignorance: ANYONE who is working with children is required, by Law, to agree to report any and all suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. This means that Girl Scout leaders, church youth leaders, teachers, piano instructors, and medical/dental caregivers are ALL under the same obligation.

    This dentist was probably giving some parents a heads-up that they were under scrutiny and that they had better do something proactive to either tend to their child’s needs, or expect consequences. This isn’t opinion. This is legal policy. This isn’t about how one feels. This is about legal ramifications and consequences.

    So remember that everyone that is involved in your children’s lives (coaches, riding instructors) is required, BY LAW, to report any and all suspected cases of child abuse, or lose their privilege to work with children.

    • Susan Cobb

      I appreciate your comment and it is completely accurate. We have now become the soviet state where everyone can go to prison for failing to rat off our fellow citizens. The stakes are high. Children are removed by the pre-crimes family services unit now in force and they don’t come back. Many are not aware how your truthful statements have the potential to affect everyone’s child and for the rest of their lives. The other part of the reporting is HIPAA which never permits the reporter to discover the outcome because a
      ll child issues are held in secret court as a civil matter. Gag orders are in place, constitutional rights are not, and hearsay is admissible as evidence. Particularly poignant is your reference to pastors or Sunday school teachers. Those who read Rusty’s statement, let it sink in. letourbabiesgo (dot) com

  • Nadine Bartels

    I’d say using a position of power to control is abuse? If the law says to report it then you do it ! Don’t threaten to report because then your not really worried about the law are you?

    • Stephanie Joy Lewis

      Good point! If there were a known or suspected neglect, that dentist may be violating his reporting duties by NOT reporting, but merely sending the letter. He seems to have done so perhaps for more than 1 reason. First, reporting suspected neglect comes with burdens on the reporting party, I am sure – obligations. Second, what a way to push people to come back to THAT office since THAT office threatened to report if they don’t get their mind changed that an appointment is outstanding.

  • Eva Wakefield (@MaximumEve)

    Dentist is really drinking his own Kool Aid. It was a bully tactic that was 100% over the top. Doubling down when there is a clear backlash really shows the character and ego involved. They disgust me. I hope that people see them for who they really are and go to dentists that have genuine respect for their patients.

  • Jason Rucco

    This should receive national news recognition. When we take our children to the ER or GP, if there are signs of neglect.. the process is that officials are notified. Why not the same for dentistry? I’m not a dentist- but I can certainly see the connection between dental neglect and bad dental habits setting up a child for a long time life of pain and medical issues. Good job Dr. Wezmar. Hats off to you. You are one of the (few?) medical practitioners who truly care about their patients.

    Ps… Imagine how frustrating it would be for you, if you were a caregiver, to see over and over kids suffering for such a preventable issue. How could you NOT say something to the parents?!?! Hippocratic Outh style!

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