A man was arrested in Florida this week for practicing dentistry without a license. According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Robert Rheinlander had been conducting examinations, making dentures, and even performing tooth extractions out of his own home.
Rheinlander, who claimed he had been a dentist in South Carolina, offered to do dental work for patients at a lower cost. However, investigators discovered that he had never been a dentist at all. Rather, Rheinlander had been licensed only as a dental technician between February 2004 and March 2006, at which time he was disciplined by the South Carolina Board of Dentistry for an undisclosed reason.
Police first learned of Rheinlander’s illegal practice on September 29 when a couple came forward with a disturbing story. They told the detective that they had been introduced to Rheinlander by a mutual friend and he had offered to do their dental work for a very low cost. However, when the unlicensed “dentist” extracted the woman’s tooth, he left behind a fragment that ended up causing serious medical complications.
After digging into Rheinlander’s background, the couple soon learned that he was not a dentist. They also told police about another patient they had referred to Rheinlander. The officers met with the patient and learned that the ersatz dentist had pulled out 10 of his teeth without anesthetic and made him a set of dentures.
About 74% of all adults have had at least one tooth extracted, and in fact, five million Americans undergo wisdom tooth extraction every year. The standard practice is to use a local anesthetic to numb the area around the extraction site; otherwise, the procedure would be extremely painful. Sedation dentistry is used for patients who are particularly nervous about the oral surgery or simply scared of the dentist (15% of all Americans).
Not only was Rheinlander not an experienced dentist, he was performing extractions without anesthetizing the patients, making these procedures both painful and extremely dangerous.
The fake dentist was finally caught by an undercover detective who set up an appointment with Rheinlander to catch him in the act.
Arrested on Wednesday, Rheinlander was charged with practicing dentistry without a license. He was released from jail the next day on a $1,500 bond.