In most states, dentists are treated much like doctors and nurses when it comes to the licensing process. That means that, usually, dental professionals are required to undergo background checks to practice. There are countless good reasons for this. First of all, background checks verify educational credentials and would make sure that no dentists without the proper degrees or training would be permitted to work with patients. Secondly, background checks would take a look at criminal history to make sure that a dentist didn't pose a threat to his or her patients.
In Arizona, though, none of this is true. The state's Board of Dental Examiners doesn't require professionals in the state to go through background checks as part of the licensing process. In other words, every person regardless of their past crimes could be licensed to practice dentistry in Arizona, simply because the state isn't taking the steps necessary to prevent them from doing so.
That could change soon. A piece of legislation currently making its way through the Arizona House of Representatives would require all applicants seeking a dental or dental hygienist license to undergo a fingerprint background check. The legislation, currently labeled as House Bill 2496, comes recommended from state auditors, who last year highlighted the lack of dentist background checks as a substantial oversight. All neighboring states, including California, New Mexico, and Nevada, already require dentist background checks. The lack of background checks for dentists is just the tip of the iceberg, though, for a broader problem that the state has with dental regulation. For instance, the Arizona dental board also doesn't do routine inspections of dental offices in the state. Many types of facilities, such as doctor's offices or restaurants, are frequently inspected by the state. Weirdly, dental offices are inexplicably left off the list, an issue that has resulted in unsanitary or unsafe conditions at some of these facilities.
Add the fact that dentists in Arizona are not required to have malpractice insurance, and that the dental board is extremely lenient when it comes to disciplining dentists for malpractice claims, and it's clear that the state's dental regulation is below that of other states. The House bill that is currently pushing for dentist background checks could be the first step to repairing the current system and making Arizona a safer place to receive dental care.