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N.C. dental board and dentists file suits against DentalCare Partners Inc.

March 21, 2013

By Kelly Soderlund, ADA News staff

Raleigh, N.C.—The North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners and 14 individual dentists filed two separate lawsuits on Feb. 18 against DentalCare Partners Inc., an Ohio-based company that owns and operates 27 DentalWorks practices in the state.

The suits allege that the company is practicing dentistry without a license and interfering with dentists' clinical decisions, resulting in unwarranted treatment and excessive billing. The complaints also contend that DentalCare Partners is violating a provision of the North Carolina Dental Practice Act that states only a dentist licensed by the dental board can own or operate a dental practice. Also named in the suits are Dental One Inc., a Texas corporation, and numerous related limited liability companies established to own and operate the dental practices.

In addition, the 14 plaintiff dentists, who have partnership interests in DentalWorks practices, claim breach of contract. They contend that DentalCare Partners exceeded its legal authority by exercising excessive control over their practices and in some instances, interfered with their ability to make independent decisions regarding patient care. The dentists claim that they took their concerns to the dental board to stop this alleged misconduct.

DentalCare Partners, the parent company of dozens of dental practices in 14 states, denies any wrongdoing alleged in the lawsuits and contends that the lawsuits have no merit. It states that it will vigorously defend the lawsuits and is confident that it will be shown to have operated in accordance with North Carolina law.

The same day the lawsuits were filed, a Wake County Superior Court judge, at the request of the dental board, granted a temporary restraining order enjoining the defendants from further violations of the Dental Practice Act. The order also prohibited the individual dentists who were named as defendants, including the 14 who brought the companion lawsuit, from assisting DentalCare Partners in owning, controlling or managing any dental practice within North Carolina, other than maintaining the status quo.