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Woman Aims To Raise Awareness After Dental Accident Costs Part Of Her Vision

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A South Jersey mom lost part of her vision at the dentist thanks to an accident that could have been prevented, but her dentist didn't take proper precautions. It's a federal recommendation that some dentist don't follow.

Jenn Morrone tries to do family art projects with limited vision. Her right eye was destroyed during a routine dental procedure.

"So this was the morning after," Jenn said. "I woke up and took a picture of my eye. I was really scared."

At the dentist, after getting an injection of Novocaine, the needle was fumbled and dropped in Jenn's eye. It was bacteria from her mouth that destroyed her vision, not the needle.

"The bacteria and germs that live inside the mouth are very dangerous inside the eye," said Dr. Christopher Brady of Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Brady, at Wills Eye at the time, tried antibiotics and a number of surgeries, but Jenn, who lives in Collinswood, was eventually fitted for a prosthetic eye.

"This was 100 percent preventable, what happened to me," Jenn said. "If eye protection was worn, we wouldn't be here and I would still have my vision and my life would be a lot different."

Jenn's talking about plastic glasses. The CDC and American Dental Association recommend that all dental patients wear eye protection. It's a guideline that isn't always followed.

She admits she hadn't thought about wearing eye protection herself at the dentist, but only because it hadn't been something presented to her as a must-do.

"No, again, I really trusted my dentist," she said. "I did not know eye protection was so important."

"Protective eye wear is critical," said Dr. Frederic Barnett, the chair of dental medicine at Albert Einstein Medical Center. He says eye protection should be used for all procedures, even cleanings, because spray from the mouth can be dangerous.

CBS3 asked Barnett for his thoughts on dentists who don't use these protective eye glasses.

"I think they're running a risk of injuring themselves, the assistant, as well as the patient, so it's just a riskier way to practice," Barnett said.

Dentists surveyed for one study showed 54 percent had patients wear safety glasses sometimes. Only six percent said most of the time. Twenty percent said never.

"I personally do think it should be mandatory and honestly before I got involved in this case, I wasn't aware of this as, you know, a problem," said Brady.

Doctors say it's unclear how many people have eye injuries from the dentist. It's Jenn's mission now, to raise awareness about prevention.

"I want you to tell friends, tell your family, anyone who goes to the dentist, which is pretty much everybody, when you go, you have to wear eye protection," she said.

She started a sunglasses selfie campaign and has a big presence on Facebook with "Jenn's Vision."

"I had to fight back the only way I could," Jenn said. "And one of the most important things to me was making sure this didn't happen again."

Jenn did sue the dentist. Under terms of the settlement she isn't allowed to reveal his name. "No amount of money in the world would ever get my eye back, would ever get my vision back. It would never make me the person I used to be," Jenn said.

The dental accident happened three years ago today. Jenn is calling it the 3rd annual day of awareness for eye protection at the dentist.

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