Cops: Unlicensed duo posed as dentists, did root canals

The women ran an underground dental business after hours, targeting uninsured clients

BY Dana DiFilippo
The Philadelphia Daily News

BRYN MAWR,  Pa. — Two woman allegedly yanked teeth, did root canals, put braces on crooked teeth and administered drugs.

But the two women who ran an underground dental business in Bryn Mawr, luring patients by offering deals to the uninsured, were not licensed dentists, authorities say.

In fact, one had no medical training whatsoever.

Cheryl Lang (left) and Jessica Gullickson (right).
Cheryl Lang (left) and Jessica Gullickson (right). (Bryn Mawr Police Image)

Lower Merion police arrested the pair Monday and issued a public plea to help identify potentially dozens of people whom they allegedly illegally treated.

Cheryl Laing, 45, and Jessica Gullickson, 24, both of Broomall, were charged with corrupt organizations, criminal conspiracy, reckless endangerment, theft by deception and unauthorized practice of dentistry after a grand-jury investigation found that they had treated patients at Smilz 4 Life on Old Lancaster Avenue near Elliott Avenue, said Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.

Laing worked as a dental assistant, and Gullickson was a receptionist, at Smilz 4 Life — a legitimate practice owned by a licensed dentist — during the day, Ferman said.

After business hours, Ferman said, Laing presented herself as a licensed dentist (with Gullickson as her assistant), advertising by word of mouth that she could treat uninsured patients at dramatically lower prices, Ferman said.

They accepted only cash and kept no records. They also didn't take patient histories or check to see if patients had drug allergies. They took X-rays, injected numbing drugs, performed root canals, put on braces and extracted teeth, Ferman said.

One patient told investigators he endured excruciating pain for 45 minutes while Laing pulled his tooth, and another said that Laing left the room during her root canal, urging the untrained Gullickson to "find the root."

"The dentist and owner of Smilz 4 Life was unaware of Laing and Gullickson's illegal activities and has cooperated with authorities in this investigation," Ferman said.

Authorities have identified three patients treated by the pair. But X-ray records suggest there could be dozens more.

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