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Lessons Learned from Pulpotomy Infection Outbreak in California

root-canal3It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: Your child receives medical treatment to become healthier, and ultimately becomes severely ill or injured. This is exactly what happened to nearly 60 children who underwent baby tooth root canals, known as pulpotomies, at Children’s Dental Group in California.

About a Pulpotomy

Though it is most common to see advanced tooth problems in adults, children are at risk of infections as well. A pulpotomy is a procedure that counteracts infection in the pulp tissue of a permanent tooth in order to save the tooth and prevent a dental abscess. Unlike a standard adult root canal treatment that irrigates all pulp out of the root canal cavity and replaces it with gutta-percha, a pulpotomy is meant to only remove the decay so that the tooth can be restored to health.

What Went Wrong at Children’s Dental Group?

As the name suggests, Children’s Dental Group is a pediatric dentist that specializes in children’s dental health. This made it extremely surprising that so many of the practice’s pulpotomy patients ended up hospitalized. As it turns out, many young patientssome as young as 3 years oldstarted suffering pain and swelling around the tooth and tenderness of the gum, neck, and jaw a few weeks after their procedures.

According to the practice’s website: “We have also worked with the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA), and have appreciated their efforts in analyzing and addressing the situation at our Anaheim office. This has included testing of the water and irrigation systems used. The testing revealed abnormal levels of mycobacteria.” The waterborne bacteria has placed many young lives in danger.

Solving the Problem

The idea of an unreliable water source is a frightening idea, and the consequences are plain to see. The Children’s Hospital of Orange County received $150,000 in county funds to provide the complex treatment needed to overcome the dental infections brought on by the contaminated water. The oral antibiotic needed requires a lengthy approval process from the FDA, so extra nurses have been brought in to help. A grandmother of one 7-year-old explained that her granddaughter has missed school and risks suffering many side effects of the antibiotic needed to save her life.

The bottom line? Every medical clinic must remain up-to-date and proactive about verifying water quality, staff training, and ongoing maintenance. Patients’ lives depend on it.

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