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Are Migrant Communities Prey to Unlicensed Dentists?

May 27, 2015

By Dean George

There’s a growing problem occurring in central Florida and other states inside migrant communities, and state health departments are taking notice.

“The public really needs to know that it is dangerous,” said Chilo Casas, an unlicensed-activity liaison with the Florida Department of Health. The unlicensed activity Casas investigates concerns people who are cleaning teeth, filling cavities, making dental crowns and fitting dentures – all without a dental license.

Casas told the Orlando Sentinel recently that those practicing illegal dentistry typically work in South Florida and other areas with heavy migrant populations, but unlicensed dentists are now becoming a serious concern in central Florida.

Most illegal dentists claim they’re licensed in their home countries like Brazil, Colombia and Peru. However, when they come to Florida they often do not get a state license but continue to offer dental services to those of the same nationality.

Casas cited language barriers, time and money for why those practicing illegal dentistry forego licensing in the United States. Casas added that such dentists do not lack for patients due to the large number of immigrants and middle-class patients without insurance.

Josephine Mercado, founder of Hispanic Health Initiatives in Orlando, told the Sentinel illegal dentistry thrives in central Florida because many immigrant dentists have no easy way of transferring their license from their native countries and the people they treat have no affordable dental care available to them.

“It’s a sad reality of coming to live here in the United States,” she said.

Mercado also adds that she’s heard through the “grapevine” that there are several people in Central Florida practicing dentistry without a license and most do solid work.

Another Florida case involves a man arrested in July 2014 for practicing dentistry without a license out of his Buenaventura Lakes home. Also, in November 2014, an Orlando woman was told to cease and desist after health investigators learned she was cleaning teeth and doing orthodontic work from her home.

Four years ago in Nevada, a 56-year-old man was hospitalized with life-threatening complications from a botched dental procedure performed by a man practicing dentistry in his Reno mobile home. The Huffington Post reported that the man claimed to be a dental assistant in another country, but he also had prior convictions for practicing dentistry without a license.

Casas said those seeking dental treatment from unlicensed practitioners are risking shoddy orthodontic work and permanent nerve damage if not worse. “Forget about saving money,” he said, “think about your health.”

Thousands of licensed dentists across the country accept the dental plans sold through Dental Insurance Store. To find a licensed plan in your area accepted by licensed dentists, click here.  

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