Dental health should be top priority for everyone, especially for children.
Tooth decay, if left untreated, can take the fun out of any kid - stopping him from playing or moving around, talking to his friends, and eating his favorite food.
But when a Baltimore mother learns her son's school went ahead and took care of his cavities, it was a different story.
Dental Extraction With No Permission, No Pain Killer
Shanda Flemming was shocked to see her young son, Michael, come home from school in tears, with a swollen mouth, and with three of his teeth missing.
"They just said they [were going to] clean my teeth," the 9-year-old boy recalled.
To aggravate the situation, Michael missed the school bus because of the dental procedure. The third grader, who was not given appropriate pain medication after having three of his teeth pulled out, was forced to endure a mile-long walk to get home while still hurting and without being accompanied by anyone from the school.
"He walked home alone after having three teeth extracted from his mouth. He could have [fallen] out or anything," the furious mother said. "I'm angry about this. I don't think that it should have happened like that."
In an email sent to the Daily News, a Baltimore Public Schools official said that a signed consent for dental services was on file for the student.
"To ensure privacy and adhere to HIPAA regulations, we do not provide details regarding medical or dental care provided to individual students," the official wrote when pressed further.
Flemming said she remembers signing a permission slip, but that it never occurred to her that it would include serious dental work, thinking it was only for routine cleaning, known as oral prophylaxis.
Are US Public Schools Proactive Or Presumptuous?
The public school system has taken a more proactive stance in addressing dental health since the death of 12-year-old student, Deamonte Driver, in 2007, which was caused by a tooth infection that spread to his brain.
The Baltimore City Schools website states clearly that, in cooperation with the Oral Health Impact Project and Mobile Dentists/Smile Maryland, "in-school dental services can be provided to all students whose parents provide written consent."
It also enumerated a list of dental care measures included in the program, such as routine examinations and cleaning, dental X-rays, sealants (when appropriate), and preventive and restorative services, such as filling cavities. What it did not mention though was tooth extractions, as an article on the incident points out.
There's an ongoing debate as to how far these school-run dental programs should go when it comes to addressing students' dental health.
"I just don't understand how a school or a company can take it in their hands to do something like this to a child," Flemming told CBS Baltimore.