The use and popularity of sedation dentistry has been growing in North Carolina. The News and Observer reports that 615 dentists are permitted to offer sedation in the state. But is it safe?
For the second time this year, the N.C. Dental Board of Examiners is investigating a death that may be linked to a dentist’s use of sedation drugs. The state’s dental authority suspects that Zachary Harrison of Williamston fatally oversedated a patient, which prompted the board to issue an emergency summary suspension. The dental board stated it has evidence that Mr. Harrison gave sedative drugs to a patient who was not a good candidate for outpatient deep sedation, which resulted in the death of the patient. The summary suspension is not a final judgment, it is just an interim step to protect the public while the board conducts its investigation. Even though Mr. Harrison was issued a suspension, he may continue to practice dentistry during the investigation and may use nitrous oxide or laughing gas in the meantime.
Two months before Mr. Harrison’s suspension, Cary dentist Toni Mascherin lost her license after her patient died following the administration of sedation. Due in part to legal obstacles, the board allowed Ms. Mascherin to continue to practice sedation in Cary for almost eight months after her patient’s death. It is unclear whether she chose to do so. In Ms. Mascherin’s case, the board found that she improperly ignored the patient’s medical history and her assistant’s warnings that the patient had turned blue.