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Patients are entitled to their gold teeth after extraction

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SURPRISE, AZ (CBS5) -

A Surprise woman says she wanted her gold tooth back after it was extracted, but her dentist wouldn't do it. What are a patient's rights in cases like this?

When patients are in any medical provider's office, it can many times seem like the doctor makes the rules and they have all control. But patients have a number of rights that a doctor can't take away from them. One of them is the right to get your tooth back once a dentist pulls it.

"You don't take something that doesn't belong to you," Becky Coty said.

But that's exactly what Coty says her dentist did. She went to Adelante Healthcare in Surprise to have one of her many gold-crowned teeth removed. After the tooth was pulled, Coty asked to have it back. She was shocked by the dentist's answer.

"The assistant gathered up the tray, walked out of the room, and she stood there and said, 'I'm not going to give that back to you'," Coty said.

Coty says the dentist, Maria Angelica Segovia, claimed the tooth was considered hazardous dental waste and that state law required the tooth to be recycled. That didn't make any sense to Coty because she still has other gold teeth a different Valley dentist gladly returned to her after he pulled them a couple years ago.

"When I requested my gold crown, he had absolutely no problems with it, the tooth was still attached, he put it in a little packet and handed it to me," Coty said.

Coty has a right to be angry at her current dentist. Both the Arizona Dental Board and the Arizona Dental Association say it's perfectly legal and appropriate for a dentist to return an extracted tooth when a patient asks for it.

"I was absolutely blindsided by this," Coty said.

Coty's learned a valuable lesson: If dental patients want any extracted teeth back, deal with the issue before you sit in the chair.

"You're sitting there, your mouth's all swelled up, you can't talk, you think I'll deal with this tomorrow. You can't deal with this tomorrow, because as they put it, my tooth was gone," Coty said.

CBS 5 News reached out to Adelante Healthcare. A company spokesperson says it is Adelante's policy to dispose of extracted teeth. They are aware it is not something mandated by law. They apologized for the misunderstanding with our viewer. Coty says if she would have known of policy, she would have went elsewhere for the service.

Adelante Healthcare says they didn't cite any state law and they don't typically deny patients extracted teeth. They only did in Coty's case because they felt there was a risk of hazardous amalgam on the tooth. Adelante has since reached out to Coty and reimbursed her for that tooth. CBS 5 News wishes to thank Adelante for making this right and resolving this dispute in a professional manner.

The AZ Dental Association told me the Center for Disease Control guidelines specifically allow extracted teeth to be returned to patients upon their request. So, make your wishes known up front. If you want your tooth back and the practice says it's their policy not to do it - go elsewhere.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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