Ohio records vague on dental patient injuries and deaths

June 24, 2016

Original Story: WKYC

CLEVELAND – Nerves and fear are often the greatest challenge facing parents when they take their child to the dentist.  But a bigger concern should be safety. The vast majority of check-ups go well. But as we found out each year some children are injured or die as a result of their trip to the dentist.  These cases are rare, and too often fly under the radar.

A video shows Daisy Torres celebrating her first birthday.  Little did her family know, Daisy would not live to see her second one. “I witnessed my daughter pass away in front of me. I didn’t leave home with her that day. I left home with a box of her belongings,” said Betty Squier.

When she was 14 months old, Daisy went to a dental office in Austin, Texas to have two cavities filled. She was sedated and never woke up.

Then there’s 4-year old Neveah Hall of Houston. She went from being the picture of health to being severely brain damaged. It happened after she too was sedated during a dental procedure to get her teeth capped. “Just the whole time they assured us that everything was okay. And the next time we were allowed to come in was when the paramedics were actually coming back,”  Neveah’s mother Courissa Clark said.

Understanding why these tragedies occurred is one of the challenges.

Dental Injury Lawyer Cleveland Ohio`Dental Patient Injury`Dental Patient Death.

In Ohio, we found out that there is no way to know because the state simply doesn’t keep that kind of data.  We checked and found out the closest it gets is the Dental Board’s annual report, where a category called “adverse occurrences” gives the total number of patients who have either been hospitalized or died after a trip to the dentist.

We know in recent years there were nearly 50 cases. But we will never know the victims’ ages, how many of those cases were fatal or what led up to them.

Margo Moore is a registered nurse and attorney. She believes what happens in Texas happens here too. “A lot of times these cases where there are injuries to children they settle out of court. There are confidentiality agreements that are signed so that the public never finds out and the parents can never speak about the occurrence,” Moore said.

While the dentist returns to work.  “And there’s really no government agency you can do to,” Moore added.

And with cases like Marissa Kingery’s kept hidden. She was just 13 years old when she died in 2011 following work on her teeth in Elyria. Her dentist has since retired.

Doctors stress that parents must shop around. “Look in your community. Talk to your neighbors. Find out who you’re comfortable with, who they are comfortable with. Google them,” cautioned Dr. Jerry Ferretti, Chair of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve.

Parents should also look for red flags, such as dentists that don’t use monitors or have a second person watching whenever using sedation. They also suggest staying with your child during procedures.

“Of course you want to be present in the room and then what emergency measures are available if something goes wrong,” attorney Christopher Mellino suggests parents should ask.

Getting a second or third opinion about sedation is also recommended.

Tonight there is concern in Texas, even bigger than the state, over what could have been done differently. While at home there’s a sense we can all do more.