Dentist Sues Over Negative Review on Consumer Website

Yelp is a free website where consumers can post reviews of restaurants and stores, places and professionals.

It’s caught on very well in the San Francisco Bay Area, where people use it to find everything from coffee shops and antique stores to doctors and lawyers.

A California pediatric dentist recently made headlines for suing a couple for defamation after they posted negative reviews about the dentist on Yelp.

After the dentist treated their son, the boy’s parents complained about the doctor’s treatment, upset that the boy was light-headed after receiving laughing gas and expressing outrage that the dentist placed a dental filling that contained mercury in their son’s mouth.

Misplaced Consumer Anger

It’s easy for an educated dentist to assume that most people realize that silver fillings are composed of an amalgam that includes mercury. But this case highlights how no one should assume that consumers know the facts. In this case, the dentist had the parents sign a consent form that disclosed the mercury content. The parents’ review said they had not been told of the mercury content.

The parents’ comments also indicated that their son was woozy after receiving “general anesthesia” from the dentist. The dentist’s suit states, “Plaintiff could lose her license to practice if she gave her patients general anesthesia. Dr. Wong only uses laughing gas (nitrous oxide) and oxygen.”

Yelp strives to maintain a “hands-off” policy, and did not take down the review as the dentist had requested. Actually, the dentist didn’t quite request so much as demand… Here’s the ineffective note she wrote to Yelp:

The review by T. J. on 9/10/2008 is full of lies and misinformation. When a disgruntled patient makes false accusations against me, I cannot refute these charges on your website because I must protect my patient’s privacy. I demand that you take this review down immediately.

The dentist’s attorney initially filed suit against Yelp as well, but later acknowledged that he had not been aware that websites offering third-party content are legally protected.

Everybody’s Doing It

In a recent survey of the Chicago Dental Society, 11% of responding dentists said they sometimes scan websites like Yelp and Angie’s List to see what patients are saying about their dental practice.

Yelp is particularly popular in the San Francisco Bay area. (Indeed, the aforementioned dentist filed suit in Silicon Valley’s San Mateo.) Angie’s List is a similar such site that is most popular in the Midwest. Though they are the top names, there are other similar websites that have caught on in various areas.

The Scandalous Review

Wondering what all the fuss is about? Though the poster has erased all but the final sentence, we tracked down the text of the original review. Would you, as a dentist, be upset with a review like this? You certainly should be – it’s terrible marketing. But would you sue?

1 star rating! Let me first say I wish there is “0” star in Yelp rating. Avoid her like a disease!

My son went there for two years. She treated two cavities plus the usual cleaning. She was fast, I mean really fast. I won’t necessarily say that is a bad thing, but my son was light headed for several hours after the filling. So we decided to try another dentist after half a year.

I wish I had gone there earlier. First, the new dentist discovered seven cavities. All right all of those appeared during the last half a year. Second, he would never use the laughing gas on kids, which was the cause of my son’s dizziness. To apply laughing gas is the easiest to the dentist. There’s no wailing, no needles. But it is general anesthetic, not local. And general anesthetic harms a kid’s nervous system. Heck, it harms mine too. Third, the filling Yvonne Wong used is metallic sliver color.

The new dentist would only use the newer, white color filling. Why does the color matter? Here is the part that made me really, really angry, The color tells the material being used. The metallic filling, called silver amalgams, have a small trace of mercury in it. The newer composite filling, while costing the dentist more, does not. In addition, it uses a newer technology to embed fluoride to clean the teeth for you, I regret ever going to her office.

P.S. Just want to add one more thing. Dr Chui, who shares the same office with Yvonne Wong, is actually decent.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle article or see the actual complaint.

Tell us what you think…

About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.

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