It must be for some. And one man, 63-year-old Jose Santiago Delao of Texas, was willing to provide dental services on the cheap, despite not having a license. Eventually he landed on the authorities’ radar and was arrested following a complaint from a woman about a botched molar repair:
Delao admits he skirted the law, but isn’t remorseful.
“Jesus Christ didn’t need or didn’t have a license,” Jose Delao told Yahoo News during a jailhouse interview. “People hurt and they needed it. People didn’t have enough money to visit the regular dentist.”
Delao, a former dental lab technician, claims he couldn’t turn his back.
“It broke my heart,” he said, tapping his chest, “because I have the experience.”
But authorities say Delao, a native of Costa Rica, has never been a licensed dentist in Texas. If convicted, he could get two to 10 years in prison….
A survey of published news reports shows that as many as eight such underground dental clinics have been shutdown in the U.S. since last summer.
“I would clearly classify it as a problem,” said Dr. Frank Catalanotto, chair of the Department of Community Dentistry at the University of Florida. “It is potentially a big problem.”
I disagree that the problem is unlicensed dentistry. The problem is that there is obviously a market demand for low-cost dentistry that isn’t being met, probably because the barrier to entry in the field as a state-licensed dentist is so high, a barrier which licensed dentists have a vested interest in maintaining, as it protects their market share from would-be competitors like Delao. But people are far more likely to be uninsured for dental care than for medical care, or simply can’t afford to pay the high prices of mainstream dental work. Delao understood this and tried to meet the need, to his credit. He may have committed some crime (if, as the story reports, he did not let a patient leave when she wanted to), but trying to help people isn’t one of them.
(Cross-posted from A Thousand Cuts.)