NEWPORT BEACH (CBS2) – Several patients are accusing an Orange County dentist of charging them thousands of dollars for dental implants and subsequently never responding to their calls for help.
CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein discovered those patients never knew the California Dental Board filed a complaint last year against Dr. Thomas Teich. He was also found negligent this May in a medical malpractice lawsuit where the patient died.
That's not all: Teich had served time in prison for mail fraud.
The dentist refused to comment on the allegations and the dental board's complaint.
"Doctor, we've talked to a number of your patients who say they've been abandoned by you after paying you tens of thousands of dollars. How can you do that? How can you abandon these people?" Goldstein said.
Several patients who went to Teich's Newport Beach office said the experience was nothing to smile about.
"I had so many infections in my mouth, it was just unbelievable," one patient said.
"I don't even speak the way I used to, and he disfigured me inside my face. It's not the same. I'm hurting. All of these people are hurting. There are so many other people," another patient said.
Patients said they were drawn to the Smile Implant Center after seeing TV advertisements, touting the office as the leader in dental implants.
Dental implants are used to support crowns or dentures, and can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
"I want them to know they took money from a widow," Cynthia Hernandez said.
Teich's office helped Hernandez get a loan for more than $12,000 at nearly 28 percent interest.
"I sold my purses, my shoes, my jewelry -- anything that I had to sell to pay for this -- and I still owe the bank at least $5,800 still," Hernandez said.
Patients said the money wasn't the issue. It's what happened after they got their implants.
"Did your teeth fall out?" Goldstein said.
"Yes, twice, twice, and the screws come off," Hernandez said.
And they some say when they tried to get help, after paying all the money upfront, appointments were hard to come by.
"They hold your money hostage," a patient said.
A dental board representative said Dr. Teich should never have been licensed in California. In 1994, the dentist's license was revoked in Arizona and Illinois. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison for mail fraud and admitted to a history of cocaine dependence.
However, in 1999, Teich's license was reinstated in Arizona. Three years later, the Dental Board of California gave him approval to practice here.
"He should not have been licensed back in 2002. He was licensed by mistake," said Russ Heimerich, a spokesperson for the California Dental Board. The board admits Dr. Teich didn't hide his past record when he applied in California, but now they say he shouldn't have qualified for a license. However, it's too late to just take it away.
"There are legal problems with that. So, you know what we can do now is to try and shut him down based on the current complaints that we have," Heimerich said.
In April 2011, the state dental board filed a complaint against Teich, accusing him of repeated negligent acts and unprofessional conduct.
In May of this year, Teich was found negligent in a wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit. The patient stopped breathing and went into respiratory failure from anesthesia while getting dental implants.
Teich's Newport Beach office closed a few weeks ago after receiving a notice he owed more than $280,000 in back rent.
Goldstein went to interview Dr. Teich at his new office in Santa Ana. While there, someone drove by and yelled, "Thief! You're a thief!" at the dentist.
The doctor said he was experiencing financial problems, even though a Mercedes Benz registered to him was parked outside his new office.
"I wish I could take care of all these people and I am attempting," Teich said.
"Oh, come on, these people say it's been months; some say it's been years," Goldstein said.
With that, the dentist didn't answer any more questions.
An attorney for the Smile Implant Center said Teich wasn't ignoring patients. He said this was caused by a poorly-executed office relocation. He said four of the patients who spoke with CBS2 have since been scheduled to see the dentist Wednesday.
To file a complaint against your dentist with the California Dental Board call (714) 923-9725 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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