BENNETT - Hundreds of patients want to know why their dentist abruptly closed his doors.
Employees of Dr. Paul Avery say he took patient records and left some people with unfinished dental work.
9Wants to Know began looking into this after patients sent us a newstip and we learned this dentist is in serious financial trouble.
He owes tens of thousands of dollars in overdue bills and about two thousand people are without a dentist and without their records.
Dr. Paul Avery was the only dentist in Bennett, where some patients from outlying rural areas drove for miles to see him.
The next closest dentist is in Strasburg, about 6 miles away from the practice Avery has owned since 1999.
Cindi Kirby, a 12 and-a-half year employee of Avery, says she never told patients about his mounting financial problems.
"Collection calls nonstop. Our paychecks bounced," Kirby said.
Kirby says all the employees hoped things would get better.
"We enjoyed our jobs. We loved our patients," Kirby said. "We're like family."
Over the weekend, an eviction notice appeared on Avery's door, claiming the dentist owes $18,887 in overdue rent, late fees, and water bills.
Kirby says her former boss also owes his three employees a combined $12,450 in salary and vacation.
Instead of checks, Avery mailed his office staff a letter saying "You will never know the sacrifices that I made to try and keep us all employed" and "This is an especially difficult time for me."
"It infuriates me," Kirby said. "He was self-pity. Woe is me always."
More concerning to Kirby are the patients Avery left behind.
"Because they're on a fixed income," Kirby said.
Kirby says some people paid for unfinished dental work just days before the office closed, including a woman who was supposed to receive a partial.
"She's walking around right now with no front teeth," Kirby said.
Bennett resident Lee VonLienen has been a patient for 10 years.
"He's gone and what do you do? So now I've got to go to a different town," VonLienen said.
Nobody answered at Avery's house in Aurora, in a neighborhood where the median home value is about half-a-million dollars.
Avery never answered his home or mobile phone numbers, but we did reach Avery's wife who hung up as soon we identified ourselves.
Avery has no record of any disciplinary actions with the state.
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies has received at least one complaint about those missing records and confirmed the state dental board is investigating.
"My big concern for the patients is getting their records," Kirby said.
Kirby says the doctor who employed her for 12-and-a-half years let down residents of the small town of Bennett.
He has victimized that community," Kirby said.
Avery's lawyer Shelly K. Rosnik tells 9Wants to Know "economic hard times" forced him to close his practice.
Rosnik says he took patient dental records with him, and anyone who needs them can contact her directly by calling 303-840-0133 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: Parker dentist Dr. Paula Coffee emailed 9Wants to Know Monday night saying she signed a letter of intent for Avery's practice and hopes to have the business back up and running within 3 weeks.
SECOND UPDATE: Avery's attorney emailed 9Wants to Know a statement on his behalf Tuesday morning:
"My client is deeply saddened that he had to close his office as a result of the failing economy and the continued rising costs of dental care. He tried for many years to keep the doors to the practice open and provide the much needed dental care to the community. In fact, he tried everything in his power to keep the doors open, so much so that he neglected the needs both personal and financial of his family."
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