3OYS: Mother claims children were victims of 'drive-by' dentist

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Words like “no cost” and “absolutely free” all in bold type, coming from a place you trust: your child’s school.

As Christi Ray told 3 On Your Side, "I read it and I was like, oh, how great is this? I was newly separated, had to look for a job, three kids," she says.

Which is why Ray, who gets government assistance through AHCCCS, didn’t hesitate to sign the consent form her two sons, RJ and Cody, brought home from school. "I figured it was approved through the schools so it should be good."

But according to RJ, "They started drilling and they didn't even give me shots."

Cody shared a similar story: "They were drilling and putting shots in me and I was all numb and dizzy," he says.

Currently there are more than a dozen mobile dental vans registered to work in Arizona.

3 On Your Side obtained copies of different consent forms, which share many similarities.

All indicate "FREE."

All also appear to target families getting government assistance through AHCCCS.

Dr. Greg Lagermeier is a pediatric dentist with My Kidz Dentist. "The state is always good for the money," he says.

He says he sees two to three kids a week complaining of treatment done in a mobile dental van.

Lagermeier told us, “Oftentimes we see work that's so excessive that it's almost systematically done."

According to Dr. Lagermeier, money may be the motivating factor. "There's pressure on production numbers, etc., and I think in general they have more of a tendency to overtreat than do us true pediatric dentists."

State Senator Kimberly Yee believes:“That's a problem when you have multiple extensive procedures in their tiny little mouths that aren't necessary.”

Senator Yee worries some mobile dental vans prioritize dollar signs over proper dental care. "When we have these types of industries that are misusing our taxpayer dollars and in fact fraudulently misusing our taxpayer dollars, we certainly do need to get involved."

In 2013, the Arizona Legislature attempted to crack down on mobile dental vans by requiring better consent forms.

While the bill passed out of the house, it never got a hearing in the Senate.

Senator Yee suspects the mobile dental industry had a hand in that. "They've hired a number of lobbyists to try and protect their turf," says Yee.

Unfortunately for the Rays, it’s too little, too late. Cody Ray says, "This isn't right. You can't just go around telling little kids, its ok, we've got to work on you and just make them feel confused. This isn't right."

"Not knowing what's happening to your children or being done to your children, it's not a good feeling," Christi Ray admits.

Ray wonders if her kids were victims of overtreatment by what some consider Drive By Dentists, that means, "Taxpayers like you, you know, are paying for stuff that's not even being done."

In Arizona, each school district has the authority to decide whether or not to partner with a mobile dental van.