Four-year-old Nevaeh Hall was a regular patient at Diamond Dental in Houston.
During a visit to the dentist’s office in March 2016, her mother, Courissa Clark, expected that some of her daughter’s teeth would be capped or even pulled due to decay. She and her husband were told to stay in the waiting room while their daughter’s procedure was performed in the back.
When they were allowed to go back and check on their daughter, paramedics were on the way.
As Click2Houston reported, Bethaniel Jefferson turned herself in to the Montgomery County Jail after a judge issued a warrant for her arrest following the March 2016 incident. She was released on $50,000 bond.
According to court documents, it is alleged that Jefferson used “too many sedatives and other drugs” that caused Hall to fall into respiratory distress.GoFundMe
Attorneys on behalf of Hall’s family allege that Jefferson’s actions during the routine procedure resulted in seizures, leaving the little girl with severe brain damage. The 4-year-old is now using a wheelchair.GoFundMe
In March 2016, an attorney for the family told KHOU:
“In essence what happened is this child was chemically and physically suffocated. […] This child suffered massive brain damage during that time period and that didn’t have to happen.”
In addition to the sedatives, Hall was placed in a controversial restraint device known as a papoose, which restricts a child from moving their arms and legs while in the dentist’s chair.
An independent dentist called to review Hall’s records after the incident found that Hall was given multiple sedatives at the time and that her vital signs were “off the charts”.
The family’s attorney explained the independent dentist’s findings in part:
“[She was] sedated in the office for over seven hours, given five sedatives for a routine dental procedure that should have been done and over by mid morning.”
The report found Hall’s blood pressure had risen to dangerous levels, as her heart rate increased in an attempt to provide more oxygen to her brain.GoFundMe
The amount of oxygen in her blood simultaneously decreased, known as hypoxemia. As the attorney contended:
“Severe [hypoxemia] is often classified as any saturation lower than 86 percent. And is known to cause brain damage.”
Clark told KHOU that staff at Diamond Dental never said her daughter was experiencing a seizure. They simply told the mother she was “shaking”:
“Just the whole time they assured us that everything was OK. And the next time we were allowed to come in is when the paramedics were actually coming back. And that was about four hours later.”
Hall’s family brought a lawsuit against Jefferson following their daughter’s injury, alleging gross negligence on the dentist’s part.
Their attorney said at the time:
“Clinics across America, across Houston, across Texas use the same business model every day to over treat these children and use these restraints. And the standard is exactly what happened here, separate mom and dad from their child, assuage their fears, take the child back, over treat them and get away with it,” said Moriarty. “We’ve got to get the American public to understand you cannot allow your child to be held in a restraint device without you personally being present.”
An undisclosed settlement was ultimately reached between Jefferson and the family.
In 2016, Jefferson’s license was revoked by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners, reported Click2Houston. She reportedly had been fined and reproached by the board twice before.
She now faces criminal charges regarding Hall’s injury.
A 2012 ABC News investigation into sedation dentistry use among children found that while there is no official registry for death related to dental procedures, over 12 children have died as a result sedation dentistry.
The investigation found a “patchwork” of state regulations and reported that some states only require weekend-long training seminars in order for a dentist to become certified to administered oral sedatives to their patients.
Increased profits are often blamed for the prevalence of sedation dentistry among children.
A year ago today, Nevaeh Hall went through a life changing event. WE, NEVAEH's FAMILY, ARE RAISING THE AWARENESS FOR PARENTS TO NOT LEAVE THEIR CHILDREN IN THE OPERATING ROOM WITH THE DENTIST #TeamNevaeh
A 2013 report by the National Institutes of Health wrote that despite inadequate data, reports of deaths and injury caused by sedation dentistry among children “likely represent only a fraction of the overall morbidity and mortality related to dental anesthesia.”