MILFORD, Mass. — There’s no hiding some dental practices in downtown Milford. In fact, a couple have a sizable presence along Main Street.
But then there was an illegal dental office located deep within the Alternativa Convenience Store, which Milford Police discovered after what the department called an extensive investigation. It culminated last week in the summoning of Juan Hermida Munoz to District Court for practicing dentistry and medicine without a license.
A summons could lead to the eventual arrest of Munoz if a clerk magistrate finds probable cause. Also hit with a summons: the proprietor of the convenience store, which is located at 140 Main Street.
Munoz apparently offered an array of dental services -- including examinations, extractions and the use of anesthetic agents. He likely drew much of his clientele from the area’s sizable, Spanish-speaking community.
“I wasn’t shocked,” said Craig Macdonald, DMD, a dentist with a practice in Natick. “Disappointed, but not shocked. It’s not that uncommon an occurrence, unfortunately. We’ve seen other reports throughout the country where people have reported having orthodontics done at home. Or other cases where people have been doing dentistry out of their garage.”
Which wouldn’t necessarily be illegal -- provided the dentist in question had a valid professional license issued in the U.S. -- and was meeting standards of care.
Part of that standard is infection control, which Macdonald says is one of the most worrisome aspects of unlicensed medical practices.
“We jump through many, many hoops to ensure that everything we use is completely sterile,” he said. “I have no idea what a guy in the back of a convenience store can be doing in that regard.”
One thing he might not be able to do -- without a professional license -- is order certain supplies and equipment necessary to enhance office sterility. And even if such items could be ordered, they may be cost prohibitive. Autoclaves commonly used in dental practice, for example, cost thousands of dollars -- but provide a crucial level of cleanliness for tools shared patient to patient.
“In this case, you’re more worried about dirty instruments transmitting possible pathogens from one patient to another patient,” said Macdonald. “And that brings in a whole lot of communicable diseases.”
Those diseases include hepatitis, tuberculosis, CMV, Herpes -- plus a range of respiratory illnesses caused by viruses.
One other thing that might be lacking in an unlicensed dental office: malpractice insurance.
“You cannot be insured without a proper license,” Macdonald said. “Heaven forbid, if something goes wrong. The patient would have no recourse.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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