In mid-January 2017, the parents of a teenager who died after having her wisdom teeth extracted by a Minnesota dentist filed a Minnesota wrongful death lawsuit against the dentist, alleging that dental malpractice led to the death of their child. An investigation by the Minnesota Board of Dentistry (“Board”) into the dentist and the incident shed some light on the allegations of dental malpractice.
The defendant dentist has been licensed in Minnesota since June 6, 1997 and holds a specialty certification in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. He is also certified in general anesthesia and conscious sedation and has American Heart Association Health Care Level CPR certification and ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) certification.
On June 9, 2015, the defendant dentist performed extraction of four wisdom teeth under general anesthesia on a 17-year-old female patient. During the procedure, the teenager’s heart rate dropped, her vital signs became undetectable, and she became unresponsive. 911 was called and CPR was performed on the patient. EMS arrived at the dentist’s office and transported the patient to the hospital where she was hospitalized for six days before being declared brain dead and died.
The Board investigated the incident and determined that the dentist failed to utilize required monitoring equipment during the teenager’s dental surgery (i.e., he failed to use an end-tidal carbon dioxide (“ETCO2”) monitor or precordial stethoscope, as required, in order to provide continuous ETCO2 monitoring; instead, he used his stethoscope to determine vital signs).
The Board also determined that the dentist did not print and maintain vital sign monitor printout recordings, despite having the ability to do so, throughout the dental procedure (it was the dentist’s general practice not to print out and maintain vital sign monitor printout recordings when performing surgeries). The Board also found that the dentist did not complete and maintain a time-oriented anesthesia sheet for the patient’s vital signs to indicate “real time” of surgical and post-surgical events (it was the dentist’s general practice to not complete and maintain time-oriented anesthesia sheets for patients’ vital signs to indicate “real time” of surgical and post-surgical events when performing surgeries).
The Board determined that the dentist inappropriately allowed licensed and unlicensed dental assistants to perform tasks, which exceeded their legal scope of practice, including by allowing such assistants to monitor patients during preoperative, intraoperative, and/or postoperative phases of general anesthesia (including during the teenager’s dental procedure) prior to the assistants successfully completing Board-approved allied dental personnel courses in monitoring sedated patients comprised of intravenous access and general anesthesia and moderate sedation training.
The Board imposed significant disciplinary actions on the dentist that allowed him to continue the practice of dentistry but prohibiting him from administering general anesthesia, deep sedation, moderate sedation, minimal sedation, and nitrous oxide to patients (nonetheless, the dentist was allowed to employ or contract another licensed health care professional with the qualified training and legal authority to administer general anesthesia, deep sedation, moderate sedation, minimal sedation, or nitrous oxide).
If you or a family member may be the victim of dental malpractice in the United States, you should promptly consult with a dental malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your dental malpractice claim for you and represent you in a dental malpractice case, if appropriate.
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