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How Routine Gauze Can Kill Dental Patients

A small piece of gauze not much bigger than the size of a postage stamp has been known to get caught in the throat of unsuspecting patients at the dentists' offices. In some cases, this type of accident has even killed patients. And, it's a big reason some dentists get sued for negligence, because they are in charge and responsible for what happens during these procedures.

Details and Incidences of Patients Who are Injured or Die from Gauze Throat

The following details and incidences about patients who have been injured or died from gauze were gathered from news reports:1

  • One man who had a small pack of gauze stuck in the back of his throat allegedly went into cardiac arrest. The man who survived, says he is lucky to be alive.
  • One 22-year-old man was declared brain dead after having a piece of gauze allegedly get stuck in his throat during a dental operation. The man's brother claims he choked on the piece of gauze. The man's family is suing the Provo, Utah dentist who performed the surgery, but who denies any negligence in the matter.
  • A young mother from Nevada allegedly died after choking on a piece of gauze, while sitting in her dentist's chair.
  • A California businessman likewise allegedly died from choking on a piece of gauze stuck in his throat.

How Does Gauze Get Stuck in Patient's Throats and How to Prevent it?

The technical term for when gauze gets stuck in the throat is called "aspiration of a throat pack." The following are reasons gauze gets stuck in the throat and how to prevent it from happening:

  • When dentists try and remove the gauze they can sometimes inadvertently push it backwards further into the throat, which can then block the airway.
  • People who are sedated also lose their protective reflexes to combat against things getting stuck or lodged in the throat. Reflexes like choking, gagging, coughing can help dislodge items stuck in the throat.
  • One way to prevent gauze from getting stuck in a person's throat is to tie a 2-foot piece of dental floss around the gauze, so it can be pulled out easily by the dentist, assistant or even the patient.
  • The American Dental Association does not endorse or condone throat packs using gauze, leaving it up to the dentist's discretion what surgical tools and products to use for procedures.

Contact a Denver Dental Malpractice Lawyer at Tomazin, Hillyard & Clor, LLP

Just like doctors, we entrust dentists with a duty of care to perform to a safe standard. If you or a loved one suffers injury or worse after having gauze get stuck in your or their throat, then contact a Denver Dental Malpractice Lawyer at Tomazin, Hillyard & Clor, LLP, who is well-prepared to help get the injured party justice and the maximum compensation for damages allowed under the law. Our Denver dental malpractice lawyer is committed to holding negligent parties accountable for their careless, irresponsible and reckless actions that cause you harm.

For a free, initial consultation to discuss how we can assist you legally, call us at 303-835-4595 or email our firm using the contact form on this page. You can also visit us at one of our offices in Denver or Greenwood Village, or we can arrange a phone conference if you live in a more remote part of the state.

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1"Gauze of Death: How a Routine Trip to the Dentist Can Put Your Life at Risk" published in Inside Edition, December 2016.

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