Trauma at the Dentist: 'They Took My Son's Smile Away'

Two years ago, DeRose paid a $10 million settlement on Medicaid fraud charges, without admitting guilt. And now attorney Darren Dawson of Dawson & Albritton has filed suit against him on behalf of some of the children -- though DeRose has denied their allegations.

DeRose declined to speak with ABC News on camera, but his Colorado home speaks volumes. It's a lavish, seven-bath, 12,000-square-foot residence complete with a pool, a hot tub and a big new extension that'll house a dance studio and a personal gym.

DeRose made a fortune after he and his partners sold another chain of dental clinics called Small Smiles two years ago for $300 million. Now sources say that some of those 70 clinics operating in 22 states have also had problems.

Former dental assistant Debbie Sansbury worked at one Small Smiles clinic until the spring. She says the dentists there too often focused on getting the job done fast.

"[The children] can get so upset they'll throw up," she said. "We stopped the procedure long enough to clean up the vomit, and then returned to it."

The Small Smiles clinic that employed Sansbury denies overusing papoose boards, defends the quality of its treatment and says Sansbury was fired for behavioral issues.

An by ABC News' Washington station WJLA that started in 2007 found that money was a big topic at the daily staff meeting at a Maryland Small Smiles clinic run by lead dentist Dr. Al Williams. CLICK HERE to watch the WJLA series on Small Smiles by investigative reporter Roberta Baskin.

Small Smiles offers the staff up to hundreds of dollars in productivity bonuses and thousands for the dentists. One way to meet those goals is to get the kids in and out of the dentist chair faster, say former employees. And one way to do that is to restrain them.

WJLA's video shows a child at the Maryland clinic strapped to what's called a papoose board, which restrains hands and feet and allows a dentist to keep working, even if the child is hysterical.

"I believe that there were a lot of cases that we could've easily prevented the use of a papoose, just be sparing them five minutes of their time, alleviating all of their concerns, and nourishing and letting them know that they'll be all right," said Sansbury.

The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry allows the use of a papoose board for a child's best interest, but told ABC News they are not acceptable when used only to speed up the work.

Despite that, Small Smiles' Williams told WJLA that "you could potentially spend two hours on a kid who's not stabilized and moving around. That's not cost productive for us."

Dentist Alleges 'a Lot of Unnecessary Work'

Williams also acknowledged that parents were kept away from their children during treatment.

"We don't want them to see what goes on in here," he said. "Not that we are doing anything wrong. But as a parent you wouldn't want to see your child strapped up like that."

Williams has since left Small Smiles and his Maryland clinic closed.

The company claims the boards are used on 6 percent of children up to 7 years old, and only when medically necessary. But current and former employees told ABC News that some clinics have used the boards much more often than that.

A dentist from another Small Smiles clinic, who asked that his identity be kept private, says he felt "sick to my stomach to go in in the morning."

He says he resigned a few months ago, partly because he was traumatized by the children's cries.

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