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Calif. dental clinic reopens after bacterial outbreaks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A children’s dental clinic that closed two times due to multiple bacterial infections has reopened in Southern California, CBS Los Angeles reports. Dozens of children were hospitalized due to confirmed or suspected contaminants from the clinic last year.

According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, baby root canals will now be done at the Children’s Dental Group with sterile, bottled water rather than tap water.

Authorities say bacteria was found in the clinic’s water supply twice last year.  

The clinic was shut down in mid-September, and then again in mid-December, when tests showed bacteria was still in the office’s water system — even though it had been replaced.

Dozens of youngsters were affected by the outbreaks.

According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, 22 cases have been confirmed at this time. Forty-six other patients have been listed as probable. The ages of the affected patients range from 2 to 11 years old.

Health officials say each child was hospitalized at some point. All of the cases were reported between Feb. 4 through Aug. 26 of last year.

Was Calif. dentist tied to bacterial infections not following protocol?

“We were really upset, that’s when I became involved, to make sure it got fixed,” said father Fernando Rocha, whose daughter got a serious infection following a root canal.

He said he will never take his daughter to the clinic again.

“No way, it’s just the staff, they just seemed more preoccupied with helping the dentists and the corporation versus kids.”

Children’s Dental Group CEO Sam Gruenbaum told CBS News that the investigation into how the kids got sick continues.

“I don’t think it was,” Gruenbaum responded when asked if he thought the bacterial outbreak was the clinic’s fault.

Mike Lyster, a spokesman for the city of Anaheim, insists that the problem was isolated to the clinic and that the city’s water supply is perfectly safe.

“If there would have been an issue with water contamination coming into the building, none of these businesses would be open here,” Lyster said.

Lyster says the city checks the safety of its water supply thousands of times per year.

California children hospitalized after visits to dentist

In a statement posted on the clinic’s website, Dr. Jerry Minsky, chief dental officer of the Children’s Dental Group, wrote in part: “The health and well-being of our patients remain our top priorities. As always, we will provide them with high quality care in a comfortable, safe, child-friendly environment, and do all that we can to ensure their wellness.”

“We have met all the conditions of the Orange County Health Care Agency’s December 2016 order,” he continued. 

After multiple evaluations from regulatory agencies, Minsky said the clinic has “extraordinary infection control, sterilization, and safety practices — well beyond those required by dental industry standards.”

Attorney Ed Susolik, whose firm represents a 6-year-old boy who lost much of his lower jaw to an infection, said that “we certainly hope they will have made the necessary changes to ensure the safety of the children and other patients.”

The clinic is facing 16 lawsuits at present, but it is expected the number of lawsuits may near 100 based on how many claims have been filed so far. Legal claims with government agencies are necessary precursors to a lawsuit.

On Friday, attorneys discussed a move in court to combine all the cases into one, much like a class-action lawsuit, which is expected to be done soon, Susolik said.

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