Help! A Dentist My Son Once Saw Has Been Arrested for Child Porn.

Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 10 2013 6:15 AM

Molesting Dentist

My son’s onetime dentist acted suspiciously, and now he’s been arrested for child porn. What should I do?

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
Fifteen years ago, I was new in town and looking for a children's dentist, and chose the one named "Best of ..." in the local paper. When I brought in my then 6-year-old son, the dentist was the only one in the office—no other patients, hygienists, or a receptionist. The dentist suggested giving my child nitrous oxide since he'd had previous dental trauma and was terrified. He also said he didn't allow parents to accompany the kids during examination and treatment, as this caused kids to cry more. I'll bet you can see where this is going, but I had several other small children and was relieved I could just stay with them in the waiting room, so I agreed. When they came out, my son seemed confused and unhappy, the dentist was hyper in a weird and creepy way, and he said that my child had won his weekly special gift giveaway and gave him a surprisingly expensive toy. At this point I thought he fit the profile of a child molester and decided to never come back, but I didn’t have enough evidence to do anything. I wondered, How long until I read about him in the newspaper? Well, the day just came. In my local paper was an article about his arrest for possession and distribution of child pornography. My now 21-year-old son saw me reading the paper and asked if there was any news. I said, "Not really," and felt like a jerk. I'm used to being honest with my kids, but I don't think he remembers anything about the dentist. I suspect it might be better not to leave him wondering if he'd been molested or if there are photos of that floating around on the Internet. Do you think I should say anything to my son, or to the police?

—Feeling Sick

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Dear Sick,
I suppose we’ll never stop reading about the guy who just loves to work with kids so much that he makes sure he gets plenty of time alone in the room with them. You included a link with your letter, and at the end of the article were numbers for the police and district attorney’s child abuse unit and a request that any parent with information give them a call. I think you should. Sure, you don’t have any evidence that the dentist molested your son. But as you know, his methods were not just unorthodox, they sound like the chapter in the molester’s handbook on creating a pediatric medical practice. Maybe many parents are now coming forward to tell about the doctor’s strange rules and behavior. But as the state builds a case it’s helpful for them to know his procedures and have lots of confirmation. I urge you to contact the D.A., and when you tell what happened ask them for advice in telling your son. Be prepared that they might ask if they can speak with your son to see if he does have any memories. But you really have a simple story for him: After that single visit you vowed never to return, and once you saw this sicko’s name in the paper you knew you had to inform the authorities. The article did mention that to date there’s no evidence the dentist molested his patients, so you can reassure your son with that. Although like plenty of other local mothers, part of you I’m sure will always wonder what exactly the doctor was doing once he shut the door on you and put the gas mask on your boy.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
I am a newlywed who’s been married exactly one month. My husband and I are both in our 20s, have established careers, and dated a little over a year before tying the knot. For about two months leading up to the wedding, I noticed my husband's personality changed pretty drastically. He was rude, critical, and very mean. He has moderate anxiety, but refuses to see a counselor because he’s afraid it will affect his career in law enforcement. He has panic attacks less than once a month, but leading up to the wedding we were trying to wrestle his panic into submission at least twice a week. He kept saying the wedding was stressing him out and things would get better. His attacks have subsided but he has not returned to being the person who asked me to marry him last spring. He criticizes absolutely everything I do. He says I can’t manage money, even though I’m paying off my student debt and my car loan. He hates my job as an elementary teacher. He tells me he worries I will get fat now that we are married, even though I’m a size 4 and teach a fitness class. He opens my mail and reads through my Web history and text messages. If I cry over any of this, he says I’m stressing him out. Neither one of us believes in divorce except in serious circumstances, like adultery or abuse. I love him more than anyone in the world, but it feels like a poison has seeped into a wonderful relationship. What should I do?

—Newlywed in Peril

Dear Peril,
If you’re like most brides a month after the wedding, you haven’t yet written all the thank you notes. That’s good for you, because you can just box up your gifts and return them to your loved ones with a note explaining that unfortunately the marriage just didn’t work out. I’m assuming your signature means it’s your relationship that you worry is in peril. But I think you genuinely are. You’ve married a nut with a gun who in the lead up to the wedding day started making your life hell. Unless you’ve taken some steps to keep it from him, he’s probably already read your letter to me. Seeing such a letter tends to make people like your husband rather angry, which is another reason I think you need to get out. Yes, it’s surely possible that your husband has a treatable anxiety-related disorder. But so what, since he won’t seek help. Beyond the panic attacks, you’ve hitched yourself to a really nasty person. This guy is so rotten that he hates that you’re an elementary school teacher. Does he also kick puppies and toss old ladies down manholes? You say the two of you don’t believe in divorce except in extreme cases, like abuse. Well, here you go! You have time to leave before the abuse turns physical, or you get pregnant. I find it alarming someone so out of control is in law enforcement. We need fewer crazy guys with unlimited access to guns. You probably think that ending a monthlong marriage will seem like a humiliating failure. But there are far worse things than being a little embarrassed.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My friend "Michelle" lost her financial marketing job about a year ago. She has gone on a number of interviews over the last 12 months but nothing has ever come of them. Not too long ago I ran into her when she was on her way to another interview and she was wearing black Capri pants, a fuchsia blazer, and ballet flats. Now I don't work in finance but I have gone on my fair share of interviews and her outfit was clearly not appropriate, especially since finance is such a conservative industry. I'm worried that her appearance at these interviews is disqualifying her before she even opens her mouth. Is there a good way to approach this topic with her without offending her? To encourage her to get a new suit? Or should I simply stay quiet?

—A Concerned Friend

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