There are never enough home videos to replace what it feels like to touch and hold your child. For Betty Squier though, it’s all she has left of her one-year-old daughter, Daisy.
In March, the toddler died shortly after arriving at an Austin dental office to fill several cavities. When an anesthesiologist working with the dentist sedated her for the procedure, Daisy never woke up.
“I witnessed my daughter pass away in front of me,” said Squier. “I didn’t leave home with her that day. I left home with a box of her belongings.”
A KVUE Defenders investigation identified at least 85 other patients in Texas who died shortly following dental procedures from 2010 to 2015.
In his 2015 investigative series, “Deadly Dentistry,” former Dallas Morning reporter Brooks Egerton found most dentists associated with those dead patients were never disciplined by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners.
Details about patient deaths are often kept secret from the public. “Even in the rare cases when people are disciplined, you’re probably not going to know pretty much from the records that are made public,” said Egerton.
Kelly Parker is the executive director of the dental board and has been with the agency since September.
Parker says state investigator found most of those 85 deaths were not due to negligence. Even so, the public is not allowed to know what caused the deaths. "It’s not that they can’t know, is just as an agency, there are only certain things that we can report about investigative files."
State law prohibits the board from releasing details about deaths unless the dentist is disciplined.
Earlier this year, four-year-old Nevaeha Hall also went under anesthesia for a dental procedure. Her mother believes her daughter suffered severe brain damage after their Houston dentist improperly used anesthesia for a procedure.
“Just the whole time they just assured us everything was gonna be okay, and the next time we were allowed to come in was when the paramedics were actually coming back. That was about four hours later.” said Courissa Clark, Hall’s mother at a news conference in March.
In April 2016, the Sunset Advisory Commission released a report criticizing the board. The commission’s mission is to evaluate the effectiveness of state agencies every few years and then make recommendations to state lawmakers. The commission concluded the board “lacks the authority and resources to routinely inspect the offices of dentists providing some anesthesia services and does not require written emergency action plans for any dentist administering anesthesia.”
Parker agreed with the Sunset’s findings, but admits the board’s hand are tied. The board currently has the authority to inspect some, but not higher levels of anesthesia use by dentists. “We do not have staff or the funding to inspect those levels as it is," said Parker.