In America, in the 21st century, people still die of toothaches and dental neglect. "Dollars and Dentists," the latest investigative documentary hour from PBS Frontline, explores America's broken dental care system and reveals how the pressure for profit leaves the poor and under-insured at risk.
As host Miles O'Brien reports in the film, more than 100 million Americans don’t go to the dentist because they can’t afford it. Many end up financially devastated and in severe pain. Some, including children, even die.
The film focuses on two companies whose practices raise questions: dental chain Kool Smiles, which treats children on Medicaid who might not otherwise receive care. Critics say Kool Smiles takes advantage of patients, pushing for more extensive treatment than standard, in an effort to rack up more billing. The firm's practices are under examination by federal and state authorities. And other chains, like Aspen Dental, offer credit cards and payment plans to help low-income patients finance care. But the cards, issued in dentists’ offices, are offered at what many consider to be predatory financing rates, in a pressured sales approach.