Can you imagine that a dental patient dies about every day in the United States? This information comes from only one state, Texas. You ask why just this one state? It is because Texas is the only state that requires all dentist to report all deaths that may be treatment related. Most other states report they don’t know when asked to report the number of deaths. What does this say about dental care emergency readiness?
Even if all states did require reporting, we’d miss the big picture. That’s because most states have different reporting rules — requiring disclosure only if a death is sedation-related, for instance.
However the number of deaths and injuries are but a tiny fraction of all dental visits. This is no reason to stop or to avoid going to the dentist which in turn would create a whole different set of health risks.
Why do dental patients die?
This simple questions inspired at least two requests for underlying death numbers and state secrecy has halted each effort.
Dr. Michael Mashni, who is a sedation expert began asking California for this information and hearing about a 4-year-old’s death. He said he was shocked by a statistic attributed to the board: 55 dental patients in that state had died in four years.
Mashni requested all dental care emergency information on each those cases, of course with patients’ and dentists’ identities protected. The Dental Board of California agreed to provide detailed summaries, although it said it had retained files on only about half of the cases.
That is when the story changed. After Mashni paid for data-compilation costs, the board said that only 24 patients had died — and that almost all records related to its investigations were confidential. The only exceptions came in three cases that had led to discipline.
Mashni reminded the board that its main purpose was to protect the public. Death reports can be shredded after a single review, he said a board employee told him. ” If Dentist A had issues and Dentist B said that everything was done within the standards set forth, then there would be no discipline and the record would be destroyed”. The main question that should stand out is “Are the care standards high enough?”