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Allcare Dental closes all offices; Company letter cites financial problems

Allcare Dental, a national dental chain based in Amherst, abruptly closed all 52 of its locations, including its offices near Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga and on Niagara Falls Boulevard in the Town of Tonawanda.

In a letter the company posted to patients on the Internet, it cited financial problems and said it will attempt to transfer medical records to other dentists.

"At this time, Allcare is working hard to transfer patient records and unfinished dental work to dentists with offices located as close as possible to the Allcare offices that are now closed," according to a statement the company posted at www.allcareinfo.com.

The company's main website is off line. Dr. Robert S. Bates, president of the company, and David Pennington, chief executive officer, did not return calls, and calls to Allcare's offices received a busy signal.

The company reported that it would post updates on the website, although there was no new information as of Tuesday afternoon.

"If you are experiencing a dental emergency, you will need to locate another dentist in your area at your cost, go to the emergency room or call 911," the company said in its message. The company attributed the closing to its inability to obtain private financing to offset a shortage of cash.

In August, then-Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, now governor, announced that Allcare was involved in a state investigation of predatory lending through doctors, dentists and others who promote health care credit cards to patients.

Patients can use health care credit cards for medical expenses not covered by health insurance, particularly dental, chiropractic, hearing and cosmetic surgery services. Cuomo said the cards prey on many vulnerable consumers and push them into debt.

His office announced it had issued subpoenas to four credit card companies seeking information about their practices and 10 health care providers, including Allcare Dental.

The investigation arose as a result of complaints about high-pressure tactics to sign up for cards, excessive interest rates, upfront card charges when services were never provided and failure to give refunds.

The Attorney General's Office is aware of the Allcare closings, and the investigation started under Cuomo is ongoing, said Jennifer Givner, spokeswoman for current Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

Allcare Dental was founded in Erie, Pa., in 2001, by Bates and Pennington. It moved its corporate headquarters to Amherst in 2005.

e-mail: hdavis@buffnews.com

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