Proposed Rules After NC Dental Sedation Deaths

Posted on Mar 10, 2014

dental accidentsIt was only a few years ago, when two separate incidents of patient death occurred in dentists' offices in North Carolina. One patient died due to complications from sedation, while the other patient died after the dental procedure. These accidents resulted even though both dentists had up-to-date credentials for performing sedation dentistry.

Proposals that change state rules for dentists were submitted on behalf of the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners. These proposals address sedation, training, and emergency response protocols. Dentists may be required to change how they select patients for certain treatments.

Whose practice prompted the proposals? The patients died in both of these dental incidents:

  • Toni Mascherin - A dentist in Cary licensed in NC since 1985 was allowed to practice sedation for over 6 months after a patient's death  in 2012. The proposal may change regulations so that dentists would be suspended from practicing. Mascherin's license is revoked as of this writing and is set to expire on 3/31/2014.
  • Zachary Harrison - A dentist in Williamston licensed in NC since 2009 administered excessive sedation to a patient who was a poor candidate for the treatment in 2013. As of this writing, Harrison's dental license status is not available, he is not permitted to practice sedation, and his license is set to expire on 3/31/2015.


Conscious sedation dentistry is not new, but less than 15% of North Carolina's dentists are qualified to administer it. Dentists are responsible for malpractice in other ways. Our medical malpractice lawyers in Raleigh review an incident, unrelated to the cases above, where a dentist failed to properly diagnose oral cancer lesions in a patient, which resulted in a medical malpractice case and reconstructive surgery. If you have suffered a dental-related injury as a result of improper sedation or negligent practice, review your options confidentially with a medical malpractice lawyer

The proposed changes will be open for public comment in the coming months, and then will be reviewed by the state. It remains to be seen, but dentists in North Carolina may have stricter requirements in the years ahead.