Team 10 finds some dentists hurt patients, yet keep licenses

Fines paid to same agency that polices dentists

SAN DIEGO - A Team 10 investigation finds those in charge of policing dentistry in California being paid by those they are charged with monitoring. Probationary dentists are allowed to continue practicing in California and have no legal obligation to inform patients why their license was put on probation.

Team 10 found some dentists licensed even though they stole, burned, or sexually violated patients. These probationary dentists kept their licenses as long as they paid the California Dental Board thousands of dollars in fees and fines.

"I don't think there's a conflict of interest," said former state dental board executive director Richard Decuir.

Decuir left the agency shortly after his interview with Team 10.

He said the board regulates dentists and collects licensing fees, which is how the agency earns money.

"If my dentist were on probation, I would probably want to know that," Decuir said.

Team 10 sorted through hundreds of cases detailing probationary dentists’ work history.

The investigation found a Poway dentist still licensed after, according to court records, he put a camera in "the employees restroom" so he could "see how they pee.”

Rancho Bernardo dentist Ray Michael Smith was still licensed after a cosmetic procedure went wrong in 2000.  According to court records, "a fire erupted, burning the patients tongue, lips, cheeks, eyelids and hair."   

The state dental board allowed him to keep practicing as long as he paid fines and fees totaling $82,657.75.  He continued practicing until seven years later, when a 15-year-old boy died under his care. Court records show Smith gave his patient a lethal dose of anesthesia.

"The cases you've brought to my attention are certainly horrifying cases," State Sen. Marty Block said. "I would hope that those people aren't practicing dentistry today."

Block reviewed several of the cases Team 10 found involving dentists with probationary licenses.

"Before the public goes in and see a dentist they should have a right to know what the background of that dentist is," Block said. "It's this kind of information that helps us decide on what kind of legislation we do need to pass."

Since Team 10 started asking questions about probationary dentists, the state dental board mandated California dentists post signs in their offices describing where to find information about their dentists online.

The Dental Board of California is under the Department of Consumer Affairs. The board’s website does provide a list of probationary dentists, but the list is not in an obvious place. To get directly there, click here. http://www2.dca.ca.gov/pls/wllpub/wllqryna$lcev2.startup?p_qte_code=DDS&p_qte_pgm_code=3610

(Mobile users: http://bit.ly/WUUz4n )

The Dental Board of California is under the Department of Consumer Affairs.

More Resources: Check the license status of your dentist

Team 10 Investigates: "Like" the team on Facebook

Print this article Back to Top