Illegal dentist’s patients warned of infection risk

Valentyn Uvarov had been under investigation since fall of 2013, but evidence for court order was elusive until now

Patients who were treated by an unlicensed dentist operating illegally in Surrey are being warned they may have been exposed to blood borne infectious diseases because of lax infection control safeguards.

The College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. said Valentyn Uvarov had been operating without a dentistry license out of 14275 62 Avenue and its investigators suspect he was reusing what are supposed to be single-use containers of injectable anesthetic from one patient to the next.

“This would potentially pose a risk of blood and body fluids transferring from one client to the rest and associated with that blood borne infections such as hepatitis B and C and HIV,” said Fraser Health medical health officer Dr. Michelle Murti.

Uvarov’s patients are advised by Fraser Health to follow up with health care providers or call 811 to determine if testing is recommended.

Murti said Uvarov didn’t keep patient records, but it’s believed he treated a relatively small number of mostly Russian-speaking patients, many of them friends and family.

The College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. obtained a court order April 24 barring him from practising dentistry or claiming to be a dentist.

“We first got wind of him in September of 2013 when a member of the public alerted us,” college registrar and CEO Jerome Marburg said.

The initial investigation didn’t yield enough evidence, Marburg said, but by this March investigators had enough for a warrant to search the premises, turning up more grounds to obtain the court injunction.

Other incidents of rogue dentists operating without a licence in Metro Vancouver have spawned health warnings before.

Most notorious was Burnaby’s Tung Sheng (David) Wu, who was sentenced to three months in jail in 2013 for violating a court order against practising dentistry. He operated in unsanitary conditions at cut-rate prices.

Four other illegal dental practitioners have been flagged by the dental surgeons’ college in the past 18 months – Vladimir Shapoval in Coquitlam, Hua Zheng Huang in Vancouver, Chao Ming Guan in Vancouver and Wei Ming (Margaret) Du in Vancouver.

Marburg said others are actively under investigation but he wouldn’t guess at how many illegal dentists operate in the region.

“Most of it’s underground so you just don’t know the scale of it.”

Marburg said new immigrants often don’t realize dentistry is a regulated profession and can be preyed on by practitioners they find by word of mouth through their community.

“These people are not good Samaritans. They are purveyors of harm. They are not do-gooders.”

He said anyone can check a dentist’s status through the college’s website, and added various low- or no-cost clinic options exist for patients who can’t afford care. (See the college’s advice letter to patients here.)

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