Officials are pointing to poor trained dentists as the culprits behind the deaths of 31 children across the United States. The dentists have unnecessarily put children at risk to increase their profits by sedating patients.
The dentists encourage parents to choose an expensive, pain-free option for children nervous about dental treatment. However, some of these dentists have as little as two days training in safe sedation, which costs tens of thousands of dollars for the treatment.
Some dentists in the U.S. have been caught administering oral sedatives to patients as young as 18-months.
A study from Virginia found figures that suggest that 31 children have died during or after dental treatment in the past 15 years.
The study, The Raven Maria Blanco Foundation, began in 2007 after the death of Robin and Mario Blanco’s eight-year-old daughter, Raven Blanco. Raven died at the dentist under sedation during a routine dental procedure.
An investigation by the Virginia Board of Dentistry discovered that the dentist, Dr. Michael Hechtkopf, gave Raven “three times the average range” of sedatives normally given to a child of her weight and normal health.
The autopsy for Blanco revealed that she had a blood concentration of 24 mg/l of chloral hydrate, which the medical examiner considered to be lethal.
As a result of the findings, Hechtkopf has his license restricted for three months and had to complete another seven hours of retraining in risk management.
Raven’s parents hope for a registry of deaths during dental treatment. “Parents assume that a dentist should know what he’s doing and that’s not always the case,” said Blanco’s parents on World News with Diane Sawyer.
During the investigation, ABC News found that there were very few regulations on dentists. Some states only require a one-weekend-long course for dentists to be certified in administering oral sedatives.
The Illinois Board of Dentistry also found a case of malpractice. The Board discovered that Dr. Hicham Riba administered an excessive dose of sedatives to five-year-old Diamond Brownridge, who died after being sedated.
“Who thinks that they’re gonna take their daughter to the dentist and never bring her home,” said Diamond’s mother Ommettress Travis.
The Board said that Riba “demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of conscious sedation.”
Some dentists have explained that sedation is routine for small children who fear the dental work. However, they also said that dentists should take extensive training before administering sedatives.
“This is something that is being presented to the practitioners, the dental community, as a very easy thing to do and nothing could be further from the truth,” said Dr. Robert Kaminski, a dental anesthesiologist from suburban Detroit.
In the past five years, over 18,000 dentists across the country have taken two-day courses in oral sedation conducted in local hotel conference rooms.
“Pain-free dentistry can mean tens of thousands of dollars of extra income in your pocket annually and as much as half a million extra in your pocket at retirement,” wrote a Dr. Michael Silverman, a dentist who runs a firm that trains dentists in the use of oral sedation.
However, Dr. Indru Punwani of the University of Illinois does not approve of the weekend course. The national spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry said that the course is “inadequate.” “I don’t believe that it can be done,” said Punwani of the course.
Dr. Silverman wrote that, “Everyone who has attended and completed any of our DOCS Education course knows that safety is by far our top concern and emphasis.”