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Unnecessary anesthesia during dental work puts children at risk

Could unnecessary anesthesia put your child at risk of death in the dentist's chair?

There has been speculation for years that unnecessary sedation is being used by inexperienced dentists to enhance their profits during such mundane procedures as tooth cleaning and cavity filling.

Experts say that while more than a dozen deaths have been officially linked to unnecessary dental sedation the actual figure is likely much higher. There's no national registry that tracks dental-related deaths and many aren't officially tied to dental sedation.

The parents of a 14-month-old child who died of cardiac arrest in Texas at the hands of a dentist and an anesthesiologist may be one of the latest victims. Her parents are suing the dentist, the anesthesiologist and the company that provided the anesthesiologist for $1 million in damages.

According to allegations by the child's parents, not only was the dental sedation part of a scheme to rack up unnecessary Medicaid fees, there was never even a reason for any dental work. Dental radiographs taken the day the child died show no signs of tooth disease or decay.

The problem is significant enough that the American Dental Association (ADA) tells parents that they should ask certain questions if they're told that their child needs sedation dentistry:

-- Who is doing the preoperative evaluation of the child, to take into account illnesses, medications, prior problems with anesthesia, hospitalizations and other risk factors?

-- What training and experience does the anesthesiologist have? Does it meet ADA guidelines?

-- Does the staff have the necessary training in emergency resuscitation procedures?

-- What level of sedation is being used? Is it minimal (relaxed but awake), moderate (sleepy but awake), deep (barely awake), or full general sedation (unconscious)?

-- How will the child be monitored and who will do the monitoring?

-- Is there emergency equipment on hand and does the office have a written emergency response plan?

In general, parents of young children should be highly skeptical of anesthesia and dental procedures on young children, especially for minor things. They should also be skeptical if, like in the case in Texas, the dentist seems to keep finding more and more work that suddenly needs to be done, when only one or two procedures were discussed in advance.

If you believe that your child died as a result of unnecessary dental sedation, consider talking to a wrongful death attorney today.

Source:, "Parents of toddler who died during dentist visit file wrongful death lawsuit," March 02, 2017

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Brian Jensen

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