4-year-old girl suffers brain damage after dental visit

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Nevaeh was placed in a papoose, a popular restraining device used to confine the child’s arms and legs so they can’t interfere with the dental procedure.

Kids hate going to the dentist, and for a good reason. The dentist’s office is scary, with scary equipment making scary sounds. But this story takes the fear of dentists to a whole new level after a Texan girl suffers from brain damage after a routine procedure.

4-year-old Nevaeh went in to have her teeth capped or possibly removed due to decay. She was there with her mother Courissa Clark, who was asked to wait outside.

It was their third visit to this office, so Courissa thought everything would go according to plan.

Nevaeh was placed in a papoose, a popular restraining device used to confine the child’s arms and legs so they can’t interfere with the dental procedure.

But something happened during the procedure that was not routine.

Nevaeh's records show she was given multiple sedatives: “sedated in the office for over seven hours, given five sedatives for a routine dental procedure that should have been done and over by mid morning.”

“In essence what happened is this child was chemically and physically suffocated,” said Jim Moriarty, the attorney for the family. “This child suffered massive brain damage during that time period and that didn't have to happen.”

He also said that Nevaeh was practically tortured based on the chart which detailed the oxygen, blood pressure, and pulse measurements during the procedure.

The record showed that Nevaeh tried to compensate for her inability to breathe by increasing her heart rate to 196 beats per minute. Her oxygen saturation dropped to 49%: any saturation lower than 86% causes severe hypoxia, which then results to brain damage.

The doctor who treated Nevaeh has been fined and reprimanded by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners and had his license temporarily suspended.

Choosing the right clinic

Doctors are humans, and like the rest of us, they, too, are fallible. This makes careful consideration when choosing physicians important.

Health.ny.gov offers these simple pointers:

  • Ask friends and relatives for recommendations.
  • If you are moving and changing physicians, ask your current physician if he or she can refer you to someone in your new community.
  • Check with area hospitals. Many of them offer referral services.
  • Check with your county medical society. They will give you the names of several physicians.
  • Ask your insurance company, health maintenance organization or managed care plan if they have a panel of physicians from which you should select.

If you have any insights, questions or comments regarding the topic, please share them in our Comment box below.