Woman Dies After Getting 20 Teeth Pulled

In a case that illustrates how easily a dental procedure can turn into a life-or-death situation, a veteran Connecticut dentist has found himself in hot water after a 64-year-old patient of his stopped breathing while having her teeth extracted and later died in a nearby hospital. Judith Gan was having a whopping 20 teeth pulled in one sitting this past February in the Enfield, Connecticut clinic of Dr. Rashmi Patel when her condition took a turn for the worst and tragedy struck.

Patel, who has practiced dentistry in the state for 11 years, now stands accused of failing to respond quickly to signs of trouble and has had his license suspended. He is scheduled to have a hearing in front of the state dental commission on June 18, after which he could lose his license for good, and if criminal charges are filed, he could face jail time.

The primary witnesses in the case will likely be Patel’s own dental assistants, who allege that he dismissed their repeated warnings that Gan’s oxygen levels were dangerously low. One of the many duties that dental assistants typically perform is to monitor a patient’s vital signs during a procedure, and in this instance, they reportedly told the dentist of the falling oxygen levels on numerous occasions and asked him to stop and call 911, only to be shut down because Patel wanted to make sure he completed the process and get the implants inserted in Gan’s mouth. According to one assistant, the patient even woke up at one point and asked Patel to stop, but he refused.

Official charges filed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health state that Patel failed to respond to changes in Gan’s condition, failed to stop the procedure to evaluate her status and failed to administer the necessary emergency medications when her condition continued to worsen.

As it turns out, it wasn’t Patel’s first run-in with controversy. Just two months earlier, a 55-year-old male patient of his had to spend six days in a hospital after he breathed some gauze in from his mouth and down into his lungs. Again, a dental assistant reported that she warned the dentist multiple times of the danger before the patient sucked the gauze down his trachea, damaging his lungs and heart.

Most of the procedures for which dental assistants provide support are routine and involve very little risk to the patient’s health — making it easy to become complacent about the level of danger involved. However, cases like these show that dental professionals need to be ever vigilant and always err on the side of caution when it comes to the safety of a patient.

(Sources: WFSB, Hartford Courant, Daily Mail)