College probes bogus dentists

Yosef Istzer, a licenced denturist, is one of three men being investigated after a Star story in June revealed illegal dentistry.

Ontario’s dental watchdog is investigating three underground dentists revealed in a Star exposé to be practising illegally in the GTA.

The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario has asked an investigator, a former Toronto police detective, to look into three men the Star found have been running dental clinics from basements and bedrooms.  “We’re moving forward,” said Irwin Fefergrad, registrar for the college.  “We have new information, so we’re going to use it,” he said.

The Star story exposed a thriving cottage industry of often dangerous dentistry performed in backrooms and subterranean settings across the province.

Practitioners, some with science degrees from other countries but no Canadian credentials, are presenting themselves as dentists and performing all manner of complex procedures on patients — including fillings, root canals, cleanings and denture preparations — using outdated and unsterilized equipment.

Michael Genkin, Aleksander Zanger and Yosef Istzer are the most recent subjects of college scrutiny.  Their practices are within kilometres of Bathurst and Finch.  None of these men is licensed to practise dentistry in Canada.  “I know it is illegal,” Genkin said after a Star reporter posing as a patient identified herself.  “I think I help people because my price is very low and quality is quite good.”

Genkin’s windowless clinic in North York was equipped with a green vinyl dental chair, rusted and ratty, and a heavily dinged autoclave, which is used to sterilize equipment but was not turned on.  An orange partition divided the small room into an operatory and a waiting room.

The second bedroom of Zanger’s modest two-bedroom apartment on Antibes Dr. housed a dental chair, a machine to shape and cut dentures and stained paper towels containing dental probes. His wife, Anne Shapiro, said Zanger practised for many years but not any more. Now, she said, he “just sees friends.”

Istzer is a licensed Ontario denturist but does more than fit patients for dentures in the basement of his Thornhill home.  A former patient said he had to spend $50,000 for a full mouth of implants after Istzer’s shoddy workmanship caused his teeth to fall out.  In April, a policing student turned in Humberto Solano Rosania, an illegal dental practitioner who had been working from a dental clinic set up in his London, Ont. basement for eight years.

The student, a daughter of one of Rosania’s patients, said she felt compelled to do the right thing.  The college recently won a court order against the native Colombian who, investigators said, earned close to $100,000 annually.  He did not pay income tax, they said. He faces four criminal charges in connection with his illegal practice.

Since the Star story appeared two months ago, dental message boards have lit up with chatter about illegal practitioners, largely immigrants offering cut-rate prices to people within their shared cultural background who cannot afford to pay the cost of a licensed Canadian dentist.

Many Ontario dentists are aware of the problem because they often have to correct the mistakes. Dentists are obligated to report any illicit activity to the college, Fefergrad said.

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