4OYS: Unlicensed 'dentist' in trailer poses health danger

Posted at: 05/05/2014 10:28 PM
Updated at: 05/05/2014 10:32 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

You won't find his name in the Yellow Pages.  You won't find it in New Mexico's dental board database.  But you will find a New Mexico man performing discount dental work in his rundown mobile home in violation of state law.

The investigative team at KOB Eyewitness News 4 confronted Curtis Abeyta in Chimayo after he agreed to examine "Johnny," the station's undercover producer.  His home is surrounded by pit bulls and sits among abandoned mobile homes off a county road.

"Oh, he wanted me to look at his teeth," Abeyta said at first.

Before the appointment, KOB recorded multiple phone conversations with Abeyta.  He explained that he makes and repairs dentures – full and partial dentures.  Johnny said he had a bad tooth.  Abeyta offered to help.

"If you pull that tooth, I can make you one," Abeyta said in the first phone call.

By the third phone call, Abeyta said he'd charge Johnny $80 for the tooth.

"I just do the work over here in my lab," he said.  "It's my house."

Abeyta refused to show KOB the lab when asked if it's hygienic and safe, but he said it is.

"Yeah, of course," he said.  "We use sterilization stuff, you know?"

Longtime Albuquerque dentist Dr. Marty Armijo expressed his fears about Abeyta's work and the supposed lab.

"One of the most important concerns is what protocol is being followed as far as infection control," Armijo said.

He said he's required to put safety first by making sure all of his tools are sterilized each time he uses them to treat a patient.  He uses two dry-heat sterilizers for metal tools and a cold sterilizer for plastics.

State law requires Armijo to inspect his sterilizers on a regular basis and log the results, which he submits to state regulators.

He said tainted or dirty dental tools could easily spread infectious diseases including hepatitis and AIDS.

"You're at risk all the time," Armijo said.

State law also requires Armijo to authorize a lab to create or repair a patient's dentures or partials.  The practice is similar to a physician who writes prescriptions for medication.  Labs cannot work with patients directly.

In Chimayo, Abeyta does not have a dental license.  He's in violation of state law since he tried to examine Johnny directly without prior authorization from Johnny's dentist.

Abeyta insisted that KOB misinterpreted state law.

"You better study up some more better on that, no?  You better study up on it," he said.  "I don't work in nobody's mouth, so I'm not doing anything illegal."

Much like Dr. Armijo, state regulators and state police disagree with Abeyta.  KOB will air their comments in a second story tomorrow on KOB Eyewitness News 4 at 10 p.m.  KOB also uncovered court recordings proving there was concern about Abeyta's dental practices months ago.

Dental Resources

The New Mexico Mission of Mercy (NM MOM) Central New Mexico

October 24th & 25th, 2014
At the Santa Ana Star Center, Rio Rancho
Doors open to patients at 5:30 a.m. 

Helping Change Lives One Smile at a Time! The New Mexico Dental Foundation, in partnership with the New Mexico Dental Association and the communities of Central New Mexico, hosts the fourth NM MOM event this October.  In the three previous events, this first come, first served free dental clinic helped create 4,700 new patient smiles worth $2.8 million in free dental treatment.  For more information on being a patient or volunteering at the event, please visit http://nmdentalfoundation.org/nmmom/index-nmmom.php or our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Mexico-Mission-of-Mercy/113810891974518?ref=ts.

New Mexico Dental Foundation Donated Dental Services

Dedicated to assisting elderly, disabled or medically compromised patients who need comprehensive dental care they cannot afford.  This is a one-time only service for those with extreme health/aging complications who qualify for the program.  Local dentists from across the state volunteer their own time in their offices to assist these patients.  For more information, please visit http://nmdentalfoundation.org/dds.php.

More dental resources