Dentists Jailed for Mutilating Patients in Money-Making Scheme

A father and son dentist team have been imprisoned for making millions off unnecessary procedures that left patients mutilated and in pain.

Lionel Guedj, 42, assisted by his father Carnot Guedj, 70, operated in a poor neighborhood of Marseilles, a city in southern France. Between 2006 and 2012, hundreds of low-income patients visited their practice for minor issues—such as a cavity or a loose crown—and left with numerous healthy teeth removed.

Judge Celine Ballerini said the unnecessary dental work was part of a "systematic" scheme for the pair to reap maximum profits from social security, reported Agence France-Presse. Lionel Guedj was sentenced to eight years on Thursday. Carnot Guedj, who worked for him part-time, was handed five years.

Ballerini ordered both men directly to prison, regardless of whether or not they appeal, prompting applause from about 100 victims who were present for the trial. A video of the father and son being sent off in police cars has been viewed 1.7 million times.

Prosecutors said that Lionel Guedj performed an estimated 3,900 root canals on the healthy teeth of 327 patients. As a result, the teeth had to be pulled out and replaced with bridges. The expensive bridges made Guedj France's highest-paid dentist in 2010 when he earned an estimated €2.9 million (about $2.9 million USD) in fees.

He used this money to buy luxury cars, a yacht and property worth €9.5 million (about $9.5 million USD), reported The Connexion.

Guedj's victims described the harrowing aftermath of his procedures during the trial. One woman said she booked an appointment for a minor enamel issue when she was 18, but Guedj pulled out 24 of her healthy teeth without properly disinfecting the roots. Since then, she has suffered from 24-hour-a-day pain and crippling shame, isolating herself from society.

Dentist's Office
Here, a photo of dental tools on a tray at a dentist's office in Walnut Creek, California, July 15, 2021. A father and son dentist team in France have been imprisoned for making millions off unnecessary procedures that left patients mutilated and in pain. Smith Collection/Gado / Contributor/Archive Photos

A 50-year-old driver said he was left with "mice's teeth" after Guedj severely filed them down. Another woman said that repeated infections caused her mouth to emit a constant foul smell, forcing her to quit her job in a bakery.

Similar scams have been prosecuted in the United States. In March, a Wisconsin dentist was convicted of health care fraud after he made millions off purposefully breaking his patients' teeth and charging to fix them. A doctor from Connecticut pleaded guilty to ordering hundreds of unnecessary brain scans in exchange for kickbacks in July. And in September 2021, a Florida cardiologist paid $6.75 million to resolve allegations that he performed unnecessary ablations and vein stent procedures.

Physicians themselves say that medical overtreatment is common in the U.S., according to a 2017 study published in PLOS One. Surveyed physicians reported that a median 20.6 percent of overall medical care was unnecessary, including 2 percent of prescription medications, 24.9 percent of tests and 11.1 percent of procedures.

Doctors said the most common reasons for overtreatment were a fear of malpractice, patient pressure or requests and difficulty accessing medical records. Most respondents—70.8 percent—believed that physicians were more likely to perform unnecessary procedures when they profited from them.

Newsweek reached out to Frédéric Monneret, Lionel Guedj's lawyer, for comment.