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State audit: Dental sedation needs better oversight, regulation

Posted March 4, 2015

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— The board that regulates North Carolina’s 10,000 dentists and dental hygienists does not have adequate oversight of dentists who provide sedation services, according to an audit released Wednesday.

The North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners allows dentists to provide sedation before it inspects the dental facilities, does not conduct periodic inspections after issuing temporary sedation permits and does not verify that dentists complete required continuing education hours, State Auditor Beth Wood said in her report.

Wood called on the board to shore up its practices in the interest of patient safety. In North Carolina, a 71-year-old man died in 2013 and a 57-year-old woman died in 2012 from overdoses of sedatives given for tooth extractions.

“State dental board inspections must ensure that dentists have the proper skills, equipment, drugs, support personnel and procedures to safely perform dental sedation because the potential consequences from improperly administered dental sedation can be significant and tragic,” Wood said in the report.

The board consists of eight professional members and nine staffers who are responsible for the oversight of 4,500 dentists and 5,500 hygienists across the state. In a response to the audit, Chief Operations Officer Bobby White said the board has been working since last year to improve regulations.

The board has held three public hearings and convened a special advisory committee to come up with proposals. White said the board is considering several changes recommended by the audit, including discontinuing the use of the temporary anesthesia permits and requiring verification of anesthesia-related education.

Conducting periodic site evaluations of dentists with sedation permits “will require a significant shifting or development of resources,” White said. “However, the board is committed to implementing this recommendation as quickly as possible.”

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  • Edward Levy Mar 4, 2015
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    In this computer age, we should be more efficient . And what is the professional background? Are the Dentists? Do THEY take continuing Education hours?

  • Dan Homiller Mar 4, 2015
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    Perhaps they'll now have time to worry about this real issue, now that the US Supreme Court has ordered them to stop trying to shut down teeth whitening services.