‘I Trusted Her’: Family Of Boy With Autism Joins Chorus Of Those Questioning Burnsville Dentist

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities mother says she is sick over what a second dentist discovered when she questioned her son’s care.

Ravi Herndon, 15, has autism and can’t talk.

ravi herndon and harriet greenlee herndon I Trusted Her: Family Of Boy With Autism Joins Chorus Of Those Questioning Burnsville Dentist

(credit: CBS)

Dr. Deanna Alevizos treated him at Metro Dentalcare in Burnsville for years.  But a WCCO Investigation raised red flags for Ravi’s family after other parents accused the dentist of overtreating children.

dr deanna alevizos I Trusted Her: Family Of Boy With Autism Joins Chorus Of Those Questioning Burnsville Dentist

Dr. Deanna Alevizos (credit: Metro Dentalcare)

A vastly different diagnosis now has his parents looking at legal action and the dentist in question fighting back.

After an insurance change, it took some time to find a new pediatric dentist to accept Ravi Herndon as a patient.

“Nobody, I don’t think, really enjoys going to the dentist and if you’re a kid with severe sensory needs it’s even harder,” Harriet Greenlee-Herndon said.

Ravi can struggle sitting still in the dentist’s chair.

“It’s hard to get him in the door,” His mom said.

For the last five years, Ravi has seen Dr. Deanna Alevizos every six months.  His parents would sometimes use anti-anxiety meds to make him more comfortable.

“There’s always been something she’s wanted to do,” Ravi’s mom recalled.

Harriet Greenlee-Herndon says they brush Ravi’s teeth in the morning, at night and after meals.  Their son also can’t access any sugary or junk foods himself, so that’s limited.

Still, his parents never questioned Alevizos’ recommendations.

“I’m just the mom. So I trusted her,” Herndon said.

From sealing his molars, to filling cavities regularly, Harriet estimates they paid a couple of thousand dollars out of pocket every year to Dr. Alevizos.

“I just thought he had bad teeth,” Herndon said.

In fact, at Ravi’s most recent appointment this fall his mom says Dr. Alevizos used the term massive decay when describing the six new cavities she spotted in his mouth. Ravi was scheduled to go under general anesthesia for the procedure this month. But, when Ravi’s parents caught our story they wondered what another dentist would say and what they would see.

“I thought this just sounds very familiar,” Herndon said.

This week, that dentist took a look and said Ravi had no cavities at all. None.

That dentist didn’t want to be identified but told WCCO people in the profession are entitled to their own opinion but he didn’t detect a thing.

The Herndons have joined at least a dozen other families who have hired an attorney. As they struggle to understand the dental work they never had any reason to doubt — until now.

WCCO also knows of at least four complaints filed with the state against Dr. Alevizos. The State Dentistry Board isn’t able to confirm the total.

Metro Dentalcare has hired a crisis communications firm.

A statement from them attributed to Dr. Alevizos said:

“I respect the right of any family to make the health choices that are right for them and I’m happy that this family found a provider they prefer. That’s how the system should work and I encourage all of my patients – and their parents – to ask questions and to seek second opinions where it seems appropriate.

“Privacy protections prohibit me from commenting on any patient’s records, but after reviewing his file, I continue to believe my treatment recommendations in this case were appropriate.

“Speaking generally – because it is inappropriate for me to comment on a specific patient – it is often the case that newly emerged permanent molars will have ‘chalky’ grooves that – based on my experience – harbor decay sites. For this reason, I always carefully check those areas through a procedure known as an ‘enamel plasty.’ Where I find no indicators of decay, I seal the tooth; where I find frank decay is present I will treat the tooth with a restoration such as a filling.

“Estimated treatment recommendations such as these are a matter of professional opinion based on the practitioner’s training, experience and judgement. It’s not uncommon – as is apparently the case here – for two specialists to disagree on conditions including the likely progression of decay, the contributing factors and thus the treatment recommendations. Had my colleague been willing to speak to me directly, I suspect we could have had a valuable conversation on those points. It’s regrettable that this individual instead chose to remain anonymous and that Ms. Collin and WCCO-TV chose to air his or her comments without attribution

“I am not a user of social media, but I understand there has been a number of discussions of my treatment recommendations in various forums. Those forums are not appropriate for me – or any healthcare professional – to discuss a patient’s care or underlying health but I encourage anyone with questions or concerns about my recommendations in their case to visit with me directly. I’ve been practicing pediatric dentistry for 22 years; I’m proud of the work I do and eager to talk about it.”

More from Liz Collin

One Comment

  1. I ran into the same problem when I tried to find a local dentist after I retired. I was given a list of several hundred dollars worth of recommended work. I balked, went back to my regular dentist and everything was fine.

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