- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The family of a Utah man who died during a tooth extraction is calling for more oversight for dentists after finding that the state doesn’t track deaths or injuries during dental procedures.

Jared Wakefield, 22, died after a tooth extraction in June 2014 when he choked on a piece of gauze, KUTV-TV reported (http://bit.ly/2f55sSY). According to state investigative documents, the Provo dentist tried unsuccessfully to clear Wakefield’s airway. Wakefield was taken to a hospital but his airway was blocked for a total of 37 minutes. Doctors declared Wakefield brain dead and his family decided to donate his organs.

When his brother, Robert Wakefield, went looking for similar incidents, he couldn’t find any.

“You’ve never even heard of something like this happening, so for it to go from ‘hey he’s in a dental procedure’ to ‘hey, he’s dead’, it’s like no, that can’t happen,” Robert Wakefield said.

Wakefield said he found that not only are such accidents possible, it is somewhat common, though how common is hard to know.

The Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing oversees more than 4,000 licensed Utah dentists who have to report incidents of injury or death within 30 days, but when asked for public records on such reports the agency says it doesn’t maintain statistics on such incidents.

A DOPL spokesman says the agency is not legally required to keep such statistics but that individuals can see licensed professionals whose licenses have been subject to disciplinary action in a monthly newsletter.

A review of dentist discipline records from 2016 found five dentists have been disciplined by DOPL, including the one who performed Jared Wakefield’s procedure. That doctor was given a $2,500 fine, required to attend an emergency medicine class, banned from performing procedures with general anesthesia, and given a public reprimand on his license.

Robert Wakefield is calling for more accountability for dentists and more awareness about the potential danger of dental procedures.

“You assume they’re all held to a certain level of care and you’re safe wherever you go,” Wakefield said. “If you’re a parent and you’ve got a 3-year-old kid and something like this had happened, you would want to know about it.”

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Information from: KUTV-TV, http://www.kutv.com/

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