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Dentist pleads guilty to fraud over paper clip root canals

BOSTON (Reuters) - A former Boston-area dentist accused of substituting paper clips for stainless steel posts in patient root canals faces the possibility of decades in prison when he is sentenced next week for Medicaid fraud, authorities said on Tuesday.

Michael Clair, 53, who has admitted to charges including filing false claims and assault and battery, billed Medicaid for the cost of standard root-canal posts and submitted claims using other dentists' identification numbers, authorities said.

Clair, who ran a dental practice in Fall River, Massachusetts, also pleaded guilty to illegally prescribing powerful pain killers such as Hydrocodone and Percocet to staff members who would give all or some of the medication back.

He entered the plea on Friday, reversing a not guilty plea made in 2010, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's office said. He is due to be sentenced next Monday.

A single count of Medicaid fraud carries a penalty of up to five years in state prison, while each count of illegal prescription of controlled substances could mean up to 10 years in prison.

Authorities said Clair used pieces of paperclips in place of stainless steel posts as a permanent fix in root canals to save money. Although such a process can be used as a temporary solution in certain cases, it can lead to infection, discomfort and pain, authorities said.

(Reporting By Lauren Keiper; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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