AUSTIN – The Texas State Board of Medical Examiners wants lawmakers to give it new power and funding so it can inspect dentists’ offices randomly and routinely.
“It will add one layer of extra protection,” Kelly Parker, executive director of the state dental board told Channel 2. “We want the authority to inspect all levels, pre-permit, random inspections, routine inspections, all of it.”
Currently, the dental board only has the authority to inspect dentists who use low levels of sedation on patients, but does not have the legal right to inspect dentists who use higher levels of sedation.
What do you think of giving the State of Texas MORE POWER so it can inspect dentist offices? (Doesn't happen now.)— Jace Larson (@jacelarson) May 13, 2016
Inspections of offices who use low levels of sedation does not occur, Parker says, because the dental board does not have funding to hire inspectors. Funding and a change to Texas law would be required to allow inspections of offices where dentists use higher levels of sedation.
DENTIST LICENSE SUSPENDED
Dr. Bethaniel Jefferson, of Spring, had her license pulled temporarily after a January incident where little girl suffered brain damage after being sedated. Her family plans to sue Jefferson.
Four-year-old Nevaeh Hall suffered brain damage.
She went in to have a tooth pulled and now has to be fed by a feeding tube. She is confined to a wheelchair, her family says.
Channel 2 Investigates found discipline paperwork showing that Jefferson didn't call for help right away when Nevaeh started having seizures.
"For another four hours, this baby is suffering injury and parents aren't allowed to be back until they call 911," Jim Moriarty, the Hall family's attorney, said.
Jefferson is set for a state licensure hearing on May 23 in which she can defend herself and request that she keep her license. Her license could be permanently revoked after the hearing.
It's not Jefferson's first problem. In 2012, she was reprimanded by the state dental board after she didn't properly sedate a young patient. In 2005, she was reprimanded after she didn't keep proper track of a patient's blood pressure and pulse.
Jefferson has not returned Channel 2’s calls for comment.
PREVIOUS CHANNEL 2 DENTAL INVESTIGATIONS
A Channel 2 investigation in February found a small number of patients have died at dentists’ offices after being sedated or going under anesthesia.
A least six dentists since 2010 have been disciplined for their conduct after a patient died, dental board records reviewed by Channel 2 show.
The Texas State Board of Medical Examiners says 88 dental patients have died at or within days of visiting a dentist, since 2006.
In May, a baby girl who died after receiving dental treatment at an Austin dentistry clinic. According to the little girl's aunt, her niece went to the dentist and five hours later she was dead.
FILE A COMPLAINT
Patients can file a complaint with the state by visiting this website. The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners has jurisdiction over dentists, dental hygienists, registered dental assistants and dental laboratories.
If you have a tip about this story or a story idea for investigative reporter Jace Larson, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or text him at 832-493-3951.