Many people will go to great lengths for a healthy, beautiful smile. In a survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, 99.7% of respondents agreed that a good smile is socially important. But would you go so far as to visit an unlicensed, cash-only dentist’s office run out of a Phoenix apartment?
Late last month, special agents from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the Phoenix Police Department arrested a woman on charges of treating patients in an unlicensed dental office, which sources say had been operating for more than two years.
The woman, 54-year-old Elda Graciela Margez de Zamora, or “Mama Elda,” as she’s known, reportedly drives in to Phoenix from her home in Mexico to perform dental and orthodontic procedures for cash payments.
Zamora rented a normal residential space in the Lynwood apartment complex near 55th Avenue and McDowell Road but had the living room set up as a waiting area with magazines, tables, and chairs, and the bed in a separate room utilized as a dental chair. An undercover agent who booked an appointment with Zamora — after being “worked in” to her fully-booked calendar — observed an air-water syringe, a saliva ejector, a high-water evacuator, and other dental and orthodontic equipment around the apartment.
Authorities were tipped off to Zamora’s practice by the owner of the apartment building, who learned that employees were being referred to a tenant known as “the dentist” by a former office manager, who had reportedly gotten braces himself from Zamora in January.
There is no record of a dental practice license for Zamora in the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners’ database. She was arrested on counts of practicing dentistry without a license, fraudulent schemes, and illegal control of an enterprise.
“Mama Elda” is currently being held in a Maricopa County jail on a $20,000 bond.