Most of us choose a dentist based on referrals from friends or family. We check the dentist’s rating on review sites to see how others feel about the service and care they received. But have you checked to see if your dentist is licensed?
For the most part, if your dentist takes dental insurance or a dental savings plan, he or she has the correct credentials. Health care plan providers vet the dentist’s license and credentials before allowing the dentist to join their dental practitioner’s network.
But if you’re paying cash for your dental care, you have to do your own research. And sometimes people who are desperate to get dental care don’t take the extra steps to verify that the dentist they are going to visit has a valid license to practice in their state.
It’s not something you can always figure out just by talking to the dentist. He or she may have had a license once, and may still have an impressive diploma or two hanging on the wall. But the license may have expired or been revoked. Or he or she may not be licensed to practice in the U.S. or in your state.
A dentist in San Diego, California was arrested this week for practicing medicine without a license. He specialized in doing dental implants at an amazingly low price, touting a “new and improved dental implant system with shorter treatment time” at “greatly reduced fees.”
It sounded great, but it turns out that this dentist would drive his patients to Tijuana, Mexico to perform the dental work. Why? Because his license was revoked in 2005. So he partnered with someone in Tijuana who was able to get the supplies necessary to perform implant surgery. Mexican and American patients both suffered after getting treatments from this duo of bad dentists.
Law enforcement and the media caught up with the scam when several patients complained about their dental work. It was soon discovered that the American dentist was practicing under an assumed name, having lost his license a decade ago after dozens of civil cases from unhappy patients were filed against him.
Check Out Your Dentist
Cases of dentists practicing without licenses are rare enough that they make news when it does happen. But it only takes a few moments to check on a dentist’s credentials and professional record, and it’s worth spending the time to do make sure everything is in order.
Dentists are licensed by the state that they practice in. You can view whether a dentist has a license, how long he or she has been licensed, and other public information about the dentist’s professional record by searching the state board’s web site. You can also find out where the dentist went to school, if he or she holds a certification in one of the nine dental specialties, and whether the dentist has a permit to administer sedation or general anesthesia.
All 50 states make this information available online. You can find links to each state’s dentist licensing information here. Each state presents the information a little differently, but in general you’re looking for “license verification” and then “dental practitioner.” From there, you’ll usually need to enter the dentist’s name, and city, to check the license status. You’ll usually see a link to their professional profile as well, which will list complaints, disciplinary actions and other information.
Licensing requirements vary from state to state, but in general anyone who is a licensed dentist must have:
A DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree from a university-based dental education program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
(By the way, DDS and DMD are exactly the same degree. Different dental schools just refer to the degrees by different names. If your dentist has a DDS or a DMD, he or she has graduated from an accredited dental school.)
Your licensed dentist will have passed the National Board Dental Examinations, a comprehensive examination covering biomedical sciences, dental anatomy, clinical dental subjects, and ethics.
If your dentist is a board-licensed specialist, he or she will have completed an additional course of study in their specialty. Orthodontists, for example, must study an additional two to three years to earn certification from The American Board of Orthodontics.
Looking for a new dentist? We can help. Check our dentist search tool. And if you’ve been putting off getting regular dental checkups due to budget issues, dental savings plans provide savings of 10%-60% on a wide variety of preventive dental care —including root canals and crowns. Find out more about dental savings plans at dentalplans.com, or by calling 1-800-238-5163