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Dentist accused of physically, verbally abusing children he treated

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He developed a reputation over three decades as a champion of dental care for poor children.

But behind the walls of Thomas Floyd’s dental practice, some former employees said they heard children screaming in pain and terror.

While his September 2012 arrest for child neglect shocked many in the community, hundreds of pages of records obtained by the Sun Sentinel detail a trail of disturbing allegations that the West Palm Beach children’s dentist physically and verbally abused patients dating back as far as 2001.

One father said he took his 5-year-old daughter to Floyd in 2011 and the dentist mistakenly pulledthree good teeth. State authorities accused Floyd of confusing the girl with another patient.

“It’s horrifying that your daughter goes in for a dental cleaning and comes out missing teeth,” said the father, Benjamin Rodriguez. “[Floyd] just didn’t care.”

Floyd and his attorney have argued he’s the the target of false accusations leveled by disgruntled employees and difficult parents.

Among the allegations in state records and police reports:

Eight former employees said they saw Floyd hit or become overly aggressive with crying and disabled children. Some said he hit kids with dental tools.

He was accused of stuffing dental bibs into children’s mouths and yelling into their ears to drown out their screams. Some former employees said he would call difficult children names, such as “brat,” “ape” or “crybaby.”

In a seven-month span in 2011 alone, he was accused of pinching a 2-year-old girl, pushing a 7-year-old girl, and giving a 4-year-old girl eight crowns without her parents’ consent.

West Palm Beach police twice investigated Floyd’s dental practice, first in 2004 and again in 2012, with the second inquiry leading to his conviction in June of a child neglect charge involving a 4-year-old patient. One of Floyd’s former dental assistants told police Floyd jammed a dental tool into the boy’s mouth with such force that blood squirted out.

Floyd, 62, agreed to five years’ probation and to never again practice dentistry in the United States.Palm Beach County prosecutors promised to file no further charges involving “known victims related to his former dental practice.”

The day before Floyd’s arrest, the Florida Department of Health suspended his license. A dentist called in to review the accusations against Floyd told state officials they were “nothing short of horrific.”

“While one accusation of abuse or anything can come from an angry patient or disgruntled employee, it is impossible to ignore the overwhelming evidence mounting in these cases reported by multiple sources,” wrote Tallahassee-based dentist Edward Zapert.

The suspension of Floyd’s license was the first action the Department of Health had taken against the dentist. It’s unclear whether the state received previous complaints against Floyd because such complaints are not made public unless state officials seek sanctions.