On Your Side: Dental board changes stance after investigation

Reported by: Joe Hart
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Updated: 7/28 6:25 pm
RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- Getting a root canal is never fun or enjoyable, but for one Reno woman, the experience was especially painful and frustrating. She turned to News 4's On Your Side team after feeling the system, including the Nevada State Dental Board, let her down.

Amy Edwards had to endure not one, but three root canals after an infection developed following the first procedure in November 2012. The infection developed, because a small piece of the dentist's metal file broke off and ended up embedded in her gum.

"After they pulled it out, I found it wasn't just stuck in the tooth, it was stuck through the bottom of the tooth into the bone below," Edwards said.

Amy showed us her X-rays, which she said show a thin metal sliver below the gum line. She also showed us a post-operative report signed by her dentist, which does say "file separated" in the report. 

But surprisingly, the Nevada State Dental Board said that is the risk you take when you get a root canal. News 4 asked John Hunt, the board's attorney and spokesperson to explain.

"It's because these dental files are so thin. This is the risk of an endodontic procedure," Hunt said.

But dentists are required to inform you when it happens. Edwards said her dentist, who we have decided not to name since no official action has been taken against him, did not inform her. She said she only found out the file was in her mouth when she went to see another specialist.

So Edwards wrote what happened and submitted her complaint along with the dentist's notes and the X-rays to the Nevada State Dental Board. But the board took no action. It simply sent Edwards a brief one-page letter dated indicating the board had reviewed the complaint and that the matter would not be pursued.

News 4 asked the dental board, why they would not pursue it? "The board can only investigate verified complaints. In this particular case, there was no verification," said Hunt.

In order for the board to investigate, you have to use an official complaint form provided on the dental board's website and then have the complaint notarized. Only then is it considered to be a verified complaint. But no one ever told Edwards that. Remember, they simply told her in that letter that the board reviewed the complaint and was not pursuing it.

The board's attorney now admits that was a mistake.

"The misstep here and I would have to say on the part of the board, is not to have informed her to verify the complaint. As a result of looking at it and thanks to you, I think she needs to verify that complaint and then the process will go forward."

Edwards said her dentist did offer her $2,800 for damages, but she declined the offer. She said she is not out for money. What she wants is for the state dental board to investigate her complaint and take action, so that what happened her does not happen to anyone else.

"You go to a dentist, you assume you're safe in their care, and they're going to take care of you and keep you healthy," said Edwards. "That they can do this and pretend it never happened, that's not acceptable."

After we straightened out the confusion over the complaint process, Edwards did file a verified complaint and News 4 confirmed that with the dental board.  They are now investigating and that may take up to 90 days.
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