The collapse of a chain of cosmetic dental practices was “the worst failure of any corporate dental body the UK has ever seen”, one of its former dentists has said.
Finest Dental closed all nine of its branches suddenly in February, leaving some patients mid-treatment and thousands of pounds out of pocket.
Dr Charles Lister, who worked at one of the clinics, told the BBC the practices’ collapse was a “scandal”.
Finest Dental has apologised.
The BBC spoke to 87 of the firm’s clients who between them had paid £540,344 for dental work that was never completed.
The dental chain closed its three branches in London and others in Winchester, Wokingham, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Leicester and Brentwood overnight last month.
Dr Lister said: “Finest Dental has been probably the worst failure of any corporate dental body the UK has ever seen.
“I think it’s been catastrophic and an absolute scandal for patients.”
Dr Lister said the firm “generated a lot of business” but this had created a backlog and resulted in problems maintaining clinical staffing levels.
The parent company of Finest Dental, B&A Group Holdings Limited, turned over £13.1m in the past financial year and made £2.4m profit after tax.
A notice on the Finest Dental website said the company’s demise had come “totally unexpectedly”.
However, former staff and patients said they believed the firm had been having problems for some time.
Gareth Pattinson paid £9,000 upfront to have his teeth replaced with implants – but the company ceased trading before the work was completed.
“I’ve been left with no teeth,” he said. “I can’t eat – [I’m] just living off baby food.”
Matt Andrew, a patient at the Winchester branch who set up a Facebook page for customers affected by the sudden closure, said he had tried repeatedly to make appointments since October of last year.
He said the company agreed to give him an appointment only on the condition of him agreeing to take down a negative review he had put online.
“The night before, at 18:30, I get a text message saying ‘your appointment is cancelled’ – so I put the review straight back up,” he said.
Alan Suggett, head of the Dental Business Unit at accountancy firm UNW LLP, said the failure of a dental body the size of Finest Dental was “unprecedented”.
Dr Simon Riahi, director of Finest Dental, told the BBC: “I would like to say how sorry I am to any patient who is dissatisfied with their treatment or has had treatment delayed.”
A statement on the company’s website said: “We will shortly be publishing a full impartial report for the patients and the public that will outline the circumstances that led to the demise of Finest Dental.”
Former patients had hoped that The Care Clinic Group, a newly formed company, would take over the business.
However, the group told the BBC that weeks of trying to “occupy the Finest Dental sites” had been “in vain”.
See more on Inside Out South on BBC One in the south of England on Monday 30 March at 19:30 BST and on BBC iPlayer here.