DENVER - Colorado is investigating questionable dentists after 9Wants to Know investigators discovered supposed dentists offering to drill patients' teeth in a private home and, in another case, handle serious dental problems in the back room of a business.
9Wants to Know received a tip after a local Spanish-speaking journalist had a dental emergency on a weekend, and a friend suggested he visit a woman in west Denver.
"I was expecting to find a small clinic, cheap you know. Not a house," Javier Castro said. "She put the gloves on, and she opened my mouth and told me I needed treatment."
Castro said the woman - who later told 9NEWS her name is Daniella Felix - had a dental chair, drill and syringe. After she examined him, he was worried about his safety, so he says he did not go back to get the $800 treatment she suggested.
Read Jace's blog about investigating this story: http://jacelarsontv.blogspot.com
9Wants to Know decided to go undercover to learn more about what she was offering. Felix offered to treat an undercover 9NEWS employee only after we told her we knew one of her former patients.
"I studied in Mexico, but I don't have a license here," Felix told us. "I usually don't take people I don't know."
"This is where I do my consultations," she said. "The consultation doesn't cost you anything, only the treatment. If she needs a filling, it will cost her $70."
We had hoped to show you the elaborate setup that we heard about inside the home where she worked, but our plan hit a snag.
Felix told us to come back the next day, but then canceled on us via a text message. She referred us to another person who worked out of a piñata store on East Colfax Avenue near North Dallas Street in Aurora. A man inside offered to make us an appointment and described the setup we would see at the consultation.
"If you are expecting to see equipment and see everything that you would see in the United States, you won't, " he said. "Everything in sterilized. All of our work is guaranteed."
While our 9NEWS undercover team was selecting an appointment time, the man inside discovered one of our undercover cameras.
When we drove around the back of the business, we saw people loading items in white sacks and putting them in a waiting van. 9NEWS investigative reporter Jace Larson approached them to ask questions.
"I'm working making piñatas," the man said in Spanish. Larson asked, in Spanish, what else he was doing. "Nothing else, making piñatas," he replied.
One of the people inside the store told our undercover team they were doing a service for the community and asked that we not expose them.
We decided to return to the first place, the west Denver home, to ask the woman there more about her practice.
She denied ever telling us she treated people, even after we told her we had it on video.
"I didn't say that to them," Felix said. "I told them, no I can't see them because I'm not a dentist here."
"It's amazing what people are capable of sometimes," said the head of the Colorado Dental Board, Mo Miskell.
He did not find the name of the woman who offered us dental services on the state's list of licensed dentists. He also did not find anyone's license listing the piñata store's address as a dental business.
"The reality is people are getting injured, potentially by people who don't know what they are doing," he said. "You don't know what their background is or their education. You don't know what exams they took to demonstrate they know what they are doing. You are taking a leap of faith."
His office is now investigating the two operations we visited. The Dental Board can take legal action against individuals if it determines they are operating as a dentist without a license.
LOW-COST CARE FROM LICENSED DENTISTS
The Colorado Dental Association maintains a list of dental clinics in the state that offer low-cost dental care. The list is posted online at: http://bit.ly/1fzyl0u.
Denver Health offers dental clinics to low-income people in the city of Denver and does not ask about a person's immigration status.
Have a comment or tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson? Call him at 303-871-1432 or e-mail him
Blog and Bio
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)