SAN ANTONIO – A local man says a routine root canal turned into a dental nightmare when a drill bit came off during the procedure.
He says it caused him to choke and swallow the metal object.
An X-ray taken the day after the appointment shows the burr of a drill bit inside Rene Gonzalez’s body.
“It shows it clear as day, lodged into my stomach lining,” he says.
He sued the dentist he holds responsible, Dr. Jo Ann Ybarra Shepherd.
"I was just kind of in shock. I didn't know, am I going to be okay?” Gonzalez says. “She said, oh, you'll be all right. It's happened before to one of my other patients. It just comes right out by itself."
But Gonzalez says he soon experienced stomach spasms, was in and out of the emergency room and finally hospitalized for dehydration.
"I was in there for three days,” Gonzalez says. “Doctor finally came in and said what had caused it. It had torn my stomach lining. Caused bacteria with that tool and I could have died from it."
News 4 asked Dr. Shepherd and her attorney for their side of the story. They both declined to comment because of patient privacy laws.
Gonzalez says, to be fair, Dr. Shepherd has been sympathetic – but it’s her insurance company that’s the problem.
"If we could sue the insurance company, we would, but in Texas that's just not permitted,” Gonzalez’s attorney Steve White says.
He says Dr. Shepherd’s insurance company denied the claim because right after Gonzalez swallowed the drill bit, she got him to sign a form.
"Any lawyer would look at it and say that doesn't work as a release,” White says.
But White says the insurance company does call it a release and only wants to reimburse Gonzalez for $500 of his $20,000 hospital bill.
"If they think $500 is going to cover it, I don't think that's acceptable,” Gonzalez says.
He hopes to settle the case outside of court and says it will be a long time before he’s ready to go back to a dentist.
In 2010, Dr. Shepherd was reprimanded and fined by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. The board said she charged patients for thousands of dollars of dental work she did not complete.