TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Several Tampa Bay dental patients have been forced to start over with expensive treatments after their dentist’s office apparently closed.
As first reported by 8 on Your Side, Alex Gutierrez, 47, has not been seen for several weeks and according to patients, his Tampa office has been locked for more than a month.
The office phone number and website are offline, and Gutierrez has not yet responded to texts or emails from 8 On Your Side.
Juan Gavaria’s daughter expected to have her braces off later this year, but on Wednesday he made the difficult decision to go to another provider who replaced the Gutierrez Orthodontics braces with new hardware.
For Gavaria’s daughter, it was six months of lost time with the original braces.
“She is definitely not happy about it,” Gavaria said. “We’re starting over but at least we know [this provider] will be around.”
Gavaria is one of several parents who told 8 On Your Side they decided to go to other providers to remove their children’s braces to start the process over again.
Adults with braces and Invisalign have also complained about stalled treatments.
Gavaria and other patients said they realized something was wrong when they could not get through to Gutierrez’s office.
“They won’t call back to reschedule,” Gavaria said. “Nobody will reply, not even to a text. I got worried.”
Gavaria and other patients said they filed complaints with the Florida Department of Health [FDOH]. An FDOH spokesperson said patients’ complaint would be the first step toward getting the state involved.
Two Bay area providers contacted 8 On Your Side and offered to help Gutierrez’s patients who were in the middle of various treatments. Representatives from Michael Abdoney Orthodontics and Farina Smiles said the patients can contact their offices for help.
One common concern is whether they will be able to get their records to move their cases to other offices.
Gavaria and other patients said the most frustrating part is the lack of communication from a provider some paid in full for still unfinished work.
“We understand that stuff happens in life,” Gavaria said. “But he should at least come up and say this is what’s going on. I’ll give you the records. I’ll work something out with you.”
Court records indicate Gutierrez also did not show for a January probation appointment in an unrelated legal case. According to court records, Gutierrez was convicted last May of “reckless driving when reduced from DUI.”
In February, Pinellas County issued a warrant for Gutierrez for allegedly not reporting to probation, not paying a $220 supervision fee and not providing proof he enrolled in a DUI class.