Texas lawmakers shocked at lack of oversight for anesthesia in dentist offices

Since 2012, anesthesia complaints to the Dental Board have been on the rise. (Image credit: MGN Online)

There can always be risks associated with going under anesthesia. But a new report from the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission shows those risks may be greater at a dentist office.

"When the EMS came, they told me to give her a kiss bye before putting her on an ambulance," Betty Squire said as emergency crews rushed to save her daughter Daisy.

Betty's 18-month-old daughter Daisy was put under anesthesia at Austin Children's Dentistry for several cavities.

Betty would never see her daughter alive again.

"They told me when they brought her to the hospital that she had already been brain dead," Betty said.

This tragedy is being investigated by the State Board of Dental Examiners. But, the board was also recently under investigation.

"Going back to the mission of government, number one to protect your citizens," State Representative Larry Gonzales said. "This is a health issue."

Representative Gonzales is on the Sunset Advisory Commission that recently investigated the State Board of Dental Examiners. He says the State Board is there to help protect patients.

"And what we're learning in the report is perhaps they're not," Gonzales said.

The report says board members "appear more motivated by business interests" while "emerging problems like regulating the administration of anesthesia went largely unaddressed."

Since 2012, anesthesia complaints to the Dental Board have been on the rise.

There were 8 complaints in 2012, 13 in 2013, and 34 complaints in 2014. Complaints dropped a little in 2015 with 27. So far this year alone there have been 17 complaints and Texas is on pace to tie or set a new record.

The report says "complications from dental procedures using anesthesia have caused serious harm to Texas patients, including death."

Of the 100 complaints compiled in the report, 41 patients died.

Rep. Gonzales says there is one glaring concern.

"Now what we've learned is when you go to the dentist's office it doesn't have the oversight and regulations and licensing that the hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers do," Gonzales said. "It came as surprise to me frankly that we don't have currently that authority."

The report also says at least 13 of the 41 death cases were found to include violations of the dental standard of care, including inappropriate preparation for or response to anesthesia-related emergencies. And, the Dental Board lacks the authority and resources to routinely inspect the offices of dentists providing some anesthesia services.

Representative Gonzales says in the past it has come down to money.

"This is one of those costs that we absolutely pay for to make sure the mission is being met of protecting the people of Texas," Gonzales said.

But Daisy's parents know all the money in the world won't bring their baby back.

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