HOUSTON -- A 49-year-old man is accused of practicing dentistry without a license inside an apartment complex on Clarewood in southwest Houston, Houston police said.
Weeks ago, a confidential informant led police to Jose Viera, and after a lengthy investigation by HPD's Major Offenders Division, he was arrested and charged with practicing dentistry without a license.
Police say more and more fake dentists are popping all over town, usually in places where there are a lot of uninsured low income people or undocumented immigrants.
Inside the one-bedroom apartment Viera had a dental chair set up with lights, but the place was a mess with roaches and filthy, apparently un-sanitized equipment, investigators said.
Investigators said teeth molds were all thrown into a box, some were found inside a drawer and there were teeth found in plastic bags.
Viera was running a lot of electrical equipment and an investigation was under way to determine whether he was stealing power, police said.
We learned he was convicted of practicing dentistry without a license once before.
Karen Love, the president and executive director of the Harris County Health Care Alliance said people utilize places like this out of desperation.
“If you have a tooth that is really hurting you then you are in a lot of pain,” Love said.
Love said there are better options than risking your life with unlicensed dentists.
“Absolutely better options in the federally qualified health clinics as well as the charity-care clinics where you have qualified dentists and health care professionals who know what they are doing and most will see people on a sliding-fee scale based on your income,” said Love.
She said projectsafetynet.net is the best place to find these options. On the site she said consumers can find two dozen clinics that can help.
Legacy Community Health Services is one of them.
“If you need to call somebody there is an organization called “Gateway to Care” and they have what we call community-help navigators. They are people who help people navigate their way through the system,” said Love.
But talking with immigrants and their community leaders we learned many of Viera's patients are too scared to go to a government or charity clinic. They're simply afraid they will be detained and deported.
“That fear is out there. No doubt about it, but one of the requirements, for all the safety-net clinics we work, is that none of them ask about
citizenship status,” said Love.
But regardless the illegal dentists, most with some training south of the border, keep popping up.
We were there earlier this year when Fredy Alvarado was arrested after another confidential informant led police to his Spring
Police said at the time there was blood and other medical waste inside that wasn't properly disposed.