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9 April 2024

Consumer NZ investigates a suspended dentist

A Consumer NZ investigation has uncovered a suspended dentist still operating out of a Ponsonby office.

“Dr Jacob Goldenberg has been suspended for more than a year because of concerns that his alleged conduct poses a risk of serious harm to the public,” said Chris Schulz, senior investigative journalist at Consumer NZ.

“I have spoken with the wife of a distressed patient who has recently given Dr Goldenberg a lot of money and had a terrible experience with the suspended dentist.”

The disappearing dentist

In February this year, Iris took her husband to see Dr Goldenberg, because of severe pain on one side of his tongue, which he thought was due to bad toothache.

“Dr Goldenberg told the patient he had a tooth infection and needed two teeth to be extracted and replaced by implants,” said Schulz.

“The patient was also told he would need to pay upfront for the treatment to get a 'discounted' price of $7,798.”

After the advance payment was made, the treatment was scheduled with another dentist for a week later. In the days leading up to the appointment, Iris’s husband’s pain got worse, leaving him unable to eat or drink.

“Iris did what anyone would in that situation, she contacted Dr Goldenberg and asked for her husband to be seen sooner. However, all her calls, texts, emails and voicemails went unanswered.

“Out of desperation, Iris turned up on the dental practice’s doorstep. She found it closed and met other patients there, who were also chasing Dr Goldenberg for refunds or treatment.”

Iris turned to trusty Google to do some digging on “Dr Jacob Goldenberg” and “Total Health Dentistry” the clinic where he practiced. That’s when she discovered he had been suspended by the Dental Council since March 2023.

When Iris sent a text asking Goldenberg for a refund as the treatment was no longer required, he responded “That can’t happen very sorry … good luck.”

Iris repeated her refund request and threatened to go public about her experience.

“What’s particularly staggering is that Goldenberg said he had called the police and taken out a restraining order because Iris was harassing him,” said Schulz

Thankfully Iris was able to get a chargeback from her bank, which was only possible because she had paid by credit card.

Iris later discovered that her husband didn’t need any teeth extracted after all. A visit to an oral surgeon confirmed her husband was suffering from neuralgia, a nerve condition that can cause intense facial pain.

“Not only were Iris and her husband forking out for dental services from a suspended practitioner, but they received a misdiagnosis too.”

Iris told Consumer she is concerned that Goldenberg is targeting recent immigrants and Chinese-speaking Auckland residents, who may struggle with English. Some people say they have lost more than $30,000 to Goldenberg.

Consumer investigates

The Dental Council confirmed Dr Goldenberg is suspended from acting as an oral health practitioner while allegations about his conduct are investigated by a Professional Conduct Committee.

“Basically, Goldenberg was suspended because the risk of serious harm to the public warrants further investigation,” said Schulz.

“While he’s suspended Goldenberg should not be seeing any patients, but we have found he is continuing to see and offer treatments to patients.”

To verify this, Schulz visited Total Health Dentistry and followed the instructions taped to the door to “Text Jake”.

“I said I wanted an appointment to assess two implants.

“Sure enough, a few minutes later Jake, aka Goldenberg, offered an appointment. He asked me to come in later that day, which seemed like the first red flag.”

Goldenberg also offered Schulz a lifetime guaranteed implant, “best in the world”, with 3D scanning, which was also “the best”.

Consumer recently explored the rising cost of dentistry across the country and its research places the average cost for implants and all-ceramic crowns for two teeth at $9,428. Goldenberg quoted Schulz $8,400.

“While Goldenberg’s quote may sound like a bargain when compared with the national average, let’s not forget this man is suspended, he should not be practising, and we know he has taken patients’ money and, in some cases, provided nothing in return.”

Consumer then put its concerns in writing in an email to Goldenberg. He replied, “Its [sic] not accurate”. Then he stopped responding.

How to avoid dental scams

“We recommend a quick Google search to check out reviews before you see a new dentist,” said Schulz.

You can also check the registration status of a dentist via the Dental Council’s official register.

However, the Dental Council does not intervene in financial disputes.

“If you’re left out of pocket and are seeking a refund, you should reach out to the appropriate dental practice first. If the request isn’t dealt with to your satisfaction, you can lodge a claim with the Disputes Tribunal. Alternatively, if you paid by credit or debit card you can request a chargeback from your bank.”

Anyone who thinks they may have received treatment from Goldenberg during his suspension can file a complaint with the Dental Council.

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