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Girl’s death raises questions about safe dentistry

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The tragic death this month of 3-year-old Finley Boyle — a girl from Hawaii who fell into a coma after a dental procedure — has raised questions about safe dentistry practices.

“It was topic number one at our dental board meeting this week,” said Mina Paul, a Roslindale dentist who is president-elect of the American Association of Dental Boards, which represents dental boards from every state. “We’d like to ultimately determine what went wrong and whether lessons can be learned from the case to improve safety in every state.”

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While the investigation into Boyle’s death has not yet been completed, what’s known is that the little girl went into cardiac arrest while under sedation during a root canal procedure. Her parents filed a lawsuit alleging that improper medications with incorrect dosages were administered, according to CNN, and that the dentist had no plan in place to respond to medical emergencies involving anesthesia.

Massachusetts state law requires dentists and dental hygienists to be certified in CPR and get recertified every two years. Dentists who administer anesthesia during treatment — beyond a local anesthetic to numb the gum — must obtain a facility permit and a permit for the dentist administering the anesthesia that includes emergency plans and patient monitoring during the administration of the sedatives.

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.
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