Dental board says their hands are tied if cuts are carried out

FILE - Dental, dentist chair (KXAN Photo)
FILE - Dental Chair (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The state agency that is supposed to be monitoring dentists made its case to Texas lawmakers Tuesday for money it believes is crucial to do its job.

An ongoing KXAN Investigation first revealed major gaps in a system to inspect dental offices for health and safety concerns. KXAN’s previous coverage found lack of inspections.

The investigation began after a 14-month-old Austin girl, Daisy Lynn Torres, died last spring as a result of complications from anesthesia during a cavity filling. KXAN found the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners had little oversight, a lack of inspections and few dentists were disciplined.

“We are absolutely trying to do our best. We unfortunately have our hands tied to a certain extent,” said Kelly Parker, the executive director of the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. “We need help. We need legislative help. We need the funds. We need the staff.”

First, the board is asking the state not to make the full four percent cut proposed statewide. The board wants to keep three positions and it could move around those jobs to help patients.

“We know a good way to reallocate them and that is to have a more direct and focused approach on anesthesia and sedation safety within our office,” said Parker. “We could do so much more if we had the staff to do it.”

Parker says the board is conducting anesthesia audits for the first time ever and it has hired an anesthesia specialist.

Still, the dental board is waiting for expanded powers. Right now, it has limited authority to inspect offices that use anesthesia. The executive director is expecting a bill in the next few weeks based on a review of the board. That bill could include expanded authority to inspect.

The Sunset Advisory Commission conducted a regular review of the Board of Dental Examiners. The committee’s investigators found 112 complaints related to anesthesia since 2012 — 41 patients died. The report also states that at least 13 of those cases included “violations of the dental standard of care, including inappropriate preparation for or response to anesthesia-related emergencies.”

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