Dentist suspended after autopsy raises questions about toddler’s death

Austin Children's Dentistry has indefinitely suspended a dentist who performed dental work on a 14-month-old girl who died in March after a cavity-filling procedure, according to a statement from the dentist's office Friday.

The decision follows the Travis County medical examiner’s office release of Daisy Lynn Torres’ full autopsy report, which stated the dental procedure likely did not contribute to her death but raised questions as to why the dental work was performed at all.

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The autopsy concluded that Torres experienced complications from anesthesia administered for the treatment of cavities. The anesthesia was administered by a contractor with the Texan Anesthesiology Association, clinic officials have said.

Though the autopsy said Torres’ manner of death was undetermined, and that no injuries were found to suggest that the dental procedure itself may have contributed to or caused her death, Austin Children’s Dentistry said Friday it was indefinitely suspending Dr. Michael Melanson, who works as a contractor with the dentist’s office.

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“… The report has provided additional details we did not have previously,” the statement read. “At this time, we feel that it is prudent to suspend Dr. Melanson indefinitely until the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners has concluded their investigation.”

An odontology review requested by the medical examiner’s office and released Friday as part of the autopsy report raised questions as to why Torres was being treated in the first place.

“One can only speculate as to why any treatment was performed, considering no indication of dental disease or pathology,” Dr. Robert G. Williams wrote in the review, adding that records from a previous visit didn’t show any decay either.

“It is possible that the partially erupted teeth may have had congenital enamel defects but not necessarily requiring treatment with a child this age,” he wrote. “No evidence that the child was in any type of pain was ever notated in the dental record…”

The first part of the autopsy report, released Thursday, found Torres likely suffered a reaction to the drugs used to put her under, which was described as a "well-known" risk. But one dentist interviewed by the American-Statesman in April said if a toddler needs dental work that requires anesthesia, the work should be done at a hospital, where trained personnel are immediately available in case the patient reacts badly to the drugs.

Melanson is a graduate from Brigham Young University and Portland State University, according to Austin Children's Dentistry website.