PHOENIX -- It’s quick, it's convenient, and it typically doesn’t cost anything. But the next time a mobile dental van comes to your neighborhood, you may want to think before you board.
For months, 3 On Your Side has been investigating mobile dental vans, sometimes called "drive-by dentists."
Unfortunately what’s happening inside some mobile dental vans may be less about care and more about cashing in on taxpayer dollars.
Tamara Robinson is still reeling about what happened to her five-year-old daughter. "My daughter was freaking out, and that's when he was like, oh, I had to fill four fillings.
Robinson says her daughter was treated inside a mobile van labeled Community Dental Clinic.
"The doctor struck a nerve and with the filling not in there properly, allowed it, and with the nerve tendon being shown, allowed it to get infected,"Robinson told 3TV.
According to Dr. Greg Lagermeier with My Kidz Dentist, this isn't the first time something like this has happened. "We're seeing a few per week like that," he says.
Lagermeier says many kids, like Robinson’s daughter Lorelei, not only get inadequate work done inside mobile vans, but many also get work that’s not necessary. "The biggest issue we have is doing fillings where sealants should be allowed," he says.
Dr. Lagermeier feels money plays a huge role, since most kids treated in mobile vans get government assistance through AHCCCS. "It's automatic money," he says. "When you do something, you're going to get paid."
Dr. Lee Weinstein is the Dental Director for AHCCCS. "I find it unacceptable that people would be doing something that would be fraudulent and shouldn't be paid," he says.
Dr. Weinstein admits that Arizona doesn’t have a system to track the details of every single dental procedure. "It is a daunting task, with the thousands and thousands and thousands of patients that are out there and the thousands of doctors that are out there to control everybody," he says. "And I am not making light of that because it is unacceptable in my world to have poor quality of work."
The Robinsons say never again will they trust mobile dental vans. "It was just horrible. It's a nightmare." Tamara says she tried to reach out to Community Dental after her daughter’s experience but she says no one got back to her.
Community Dental told 3TV they are unaware of any complaints and say they have been providing quality dental care to low income children for 7 years.
Below is a complete statement from Community Dental:
“Community Dental has been serving the Phoenix Valley Community for over 7 years providing quality dental care to low-income children. A high percentage of these children have not been seen by a dentist in over a year and some do not have means of transportation or resources to take them. If a family, which currently has a provider approaches us, we encourage them to continue services with their own provider. We revisit the community every 3 to 6 months to ensure they get their routine check-up and prevent future dental issues that hinder their growth. Parents are encouraged to be present during treatment to create a pleasant experience for both child as well as the parent. Our main focus is to treat those who would routinely not see any other dentist. Our mobile dental clinic became over the years a dental home for many under-served children which are not able to receive regular dental care. The proper emergency protocol is in place to ensure that all parent calls are handled in a timely fashion. Even emergency calls outside of regular business hours are monitored 24/7 and handled accordingly with a call back if the parents leaves a message with contact information. Unfortunately many children we see have very bad dental conditions and we try our best to save every child’s teeth. The child’s well-being is our priority. Community Dental has not been provided the details of any particular case so we are unable to address any situation.”
Bottom line, if you have a bad experience in a mobile dental van, contact the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners at (602) 242-1492 or AHCCCS at (602) 417-4257 or 602-417-4000.