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Call Kurtis: Did Your Dentist Make a Mistake? Here's What You Can Do

A Sacramento viewer says his dentist messed up on his root canal and doesn't think he should have to pay for the mistake. When he couldn't get it fixed, he decided it was time to call Kurtis.

It's been nearly two years of pain and dental bleeding for Thomas Coker of Sacramento, he said.

"This is my mouth, and I have to get it fixed," he said.

His dentist, Dr. Tam Hgoc Nguyen of Roseville's Healthy Image Dental, made a mistake ruining his tooth during a root canal, he said.

"I have a problem kissing my wife. I'm scared to death that -- I'm trying not to get emotional," Coker said, collecting his thoughts. "I'm scared to death that she might smell some blood on my breath or something."

"It's not very good for me," he added.

But instead of repairing the problem, he said Healthy Image refused to see him again because he wouldn't pay for the initial root canal.

"Why should I pay for something that they caused?" he said. "They need to fix it."

Dr. Nguyen, and about 70 percent of California dentists, belong to the California Dental Assocation.

If dental patients suspect their dentist made a mistake, the trade organization has a peer review program.

"We'd rather try to handle it outside of the court system," said Dr. Adrian Carrington, former chair of the Sacramento District Dental Society -- a division of the CDA.

If a customer complains about one of the CDA's members, three independent dentists will examine the case in peer review.
The CDA says about half the time it rules in the patient's favor, forcing the dentist to give a refund or cover the treatment needed.

"As a member of CDA, part of your membership is you abide by those rules," Carrington said.

Thomas chose to complain to the state agency that oversees dentists -- the Dental Board of California -- which has the power to punish dentists.

An investigation with the Dental Board could take as long as 18 months, however.

After CBS13 got involved, Healthy Image and Coker are close to a resolution. Thomas said he can't wait much longer.

"I have to take care of my mouth," he said. "I have to think about what's the priority

In a statement to CBS13, Healthy Image said: "Medicine as well as dentistry is not an exact science, and reputable practitioners cannot properly guarantee results."

"Despite the most diligent care and precaution, unanticipated complications or unintended results, although rare, may occur. In this particular situation with Mr. Coker his own dental insurance company did not find Healthy Image Dental at fault," the statement continued.

The Roseville business also said it has not been notified in writing that Dr. Nguyen was at fault and could not comment on any employment specifics.

"We honestly believe that this dispute was brought to your attention by Mr. Coker so that he could avoid to pay his financial obligation that was owed for to us for over two years since we had last seen him," the company statement said. "In addition, his situation worsened due to his own neglect in not seeing a doctor/specialist to get his work done two years ago."

The company also said: "Generally, we listen to customer concerns and strive to take whatever action is necessary, if necessary to correct the situation -- we encourage the patient to do the correct thing as well.

"Each case is different. We also encourage the patient to contact 'their dental insurance company.' If they have a dispute or any grievance with us, their dental insurance company settles the dispute based on their evaluation and findings and 'obligates' the treating provider to correct the patient's dental problem. This includes specialist referrals if necessary to be made by the patient's dental insurance company."

If consumers want to complain to the California Dental Association, you have one year from when you experience the problem to report it.

The Dental Board gives up to seven years to complain about dental work.

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