The recent death of a Kailua toddler after visiting Island Dentistry for Children in Kailua run by Dr. Lilly Geyer has shocked the dental community.
“We’re saddened as dentists and as mothers. Our hearts go out to the family of this little girl," said Dr. Cecile Sebastian, who’s been practicing dentistry in downtown Honolulu for more than a decade.
The recent tragedy is raising concerns over pulpotomies, essentially baby root canals and whether it's a necessary procedure.
“Baby teeth are still very important for bone spacing later on for permanent teeth to develop properly," said Sebastian. “If a child is suffering from cavities and it gets into the nerves, more than likely the child will have a painful tooth. A pulpotomy is done not only done to save the tooth, but also the child in pain.”
The Hawaii Dental Association released the following statement on Tuesday: “The practice of sedation/anesthesia by licensed dentists is regulated by the State of Hawaii, and to ensure the highest safety measures for patients undergoing sedation. We also encourage the public to speak with their dentists and to feel free to ask questions about their background and credentials, treatment plans and treatment options.”
Dentists are hoping parents ask the right questions about the treatment.
Three-year-old Finley Boyle died last week after a lying in a coma for weeks.
Her parents claim a visit to Island Dentistry for Children last month left their child brain dead.
“We were all waiting for her to wake up,” said Ashley Boyle, the mother of Finley.
Dentists like Sebastian say cases like this are rare.
She emphasizes there's a huge difference between local and general anesthesia and that most visits to the dentist involve the former.
“Local anesthesia is specifically to an area being treated. That's what most dentists deliver,” said Sebastian. “With general anesthesia, more drugs are administered, which affect the central nervous system and patients are unconscious.”
Details of Finley's visit to the dentist are still unclear.
Calls to Island Dentistry for Children were not returned.
But, the Boyle family's attorney alleges five different doses of sedatives and anesthetics are to blame.
“It appears most of the work said to be necessary by Dr. Geyer was not necessary,” said attorney Rick Fried.
Finley was undergoing multiple pulpotomies, which dentists say are common and often necessary.