The Safety of Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry has been all over recent news media after an ABC News investigation uncovered a horrific story of greed and malpractice.  According to reports, there have been 31 child deaths over the last 15 years due to incompetent dentists using anesthesia in inappropriate ways, at times to perform routine procedures, such as teeth cleaning and cavity treatments.   It has been suggested that lack of training requirements and the ability to charge more for services has driven the number of sedation-related fatalities upward.   In order to protect young patients, the American Dental Association has compiled a list of questions that parents or guardians should ask before their child is sedated.  Some of those questions include:

  • Who will provide the preoperative evaluation of my child including medical history?
  • How much time should my child be without food or drink prior to the procedure?
  • What training and experience does the sedation/anesthesia provider have? Does this training and experience meet all of the standards of the ADA Guidelines for the Use of Sedation and General Anesthesia by Dentists?
  • Does the staff assisting in the procedure have current training in emergency resuscitation procedures?
  • Does the state dental board require a special sedation/anesthesia permit or license that allows for this practice to occur in this dental office?
  • What level of sedation will be given to my child? Minimal (relaxed and awake), moderate (sleepy but awake), deep (barely awake), or general anesthesia (unconscious)?
  • How will my child be monitored before, during, and after the procedure? Is there appropriate emergency medications and equipment available onsite?
  • Will instructions and emergency contact information be given to me following the procedure in the event of concern or complications once home?

Sedation dentistry provides a beneficial service to individuals, young and old, who are anxious about visiting the dentist and/or having dental procedures performed.  Without the option of sedation, many have gone without dental care because of their fear, leading to more serious issues affecting their health and wellbeing.  Sedation dentistry is safe and effective when practiced with the proper training, and when following the established guidelines and standards from organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists.  For more information, speak to your sedation dentist, or visit the ADA website,

Written by Mark Paulsort

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