You’ve likely never thought twice about being sedated before a basic dental procedure. But after several recent incidents in which children have died after being put under sedation for dental procedures, parents are speaking out about the possible dangers associated with kids and anesthesia.
For example, here’s one heartbreaking news story about a 14-month-old, Daisy Lynn Torres, who died when she was put under for the treatment of cavities.
Because there are literally millions of millions of dental procedures performed on children each year, it’s difficult to say just how common such deaths are. But because even one death is one too many, experts are warning parents to consider the risks before allowing their children to be sedated.
Why Is Sedation More Dangerous For Kids?
One big reason sedation is more dangerous for children than it is for adults is that children choke more easily. “It doesn’t take much to obstruct a small child’s airway. Their vocal cords can close. They can choke on a little bit of blood,” Dr. Karen Sibert, an associate clinical professor of anesthesiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Today.
And because these procedures often take place in an office setting rather than in a hospital or surgery center, it’s usually too late to save a child by the time emergency personnel arrive.
How Can Parents Prevent This From Happening?
Experts agree that being informed is key in preventing these senseless tragedies, so parents should ask a lot of questions before allowing their child to be put under general anesthesia. According to a panel of experts interviewed for Today, the following nine questions should be asked before any procedure involving sedation of your child.
1. What procedure are you going to do and do you have to do it? The doctor should be able to clearly to explain to you exactly what and why they are doing a particular procedure.
2. How much training have you had?
3. Are you going to sedate my child? If so, what medicines are you going to use? They should be specific and be able to give you exact names of medications.
4. Will there be a separate provider for general anesthesia in the room? Experts warn that a separate anesthesiologist should be present so that a dentist is not fulfilling both roles.
5. How much experience does this person have caring for kids my child’s age?
6. How will my child be monitored during the procedure?
7. Who is going to be in the room if something goes wrong?
8. Are you going to use a Papoose Board (a temporary restraint)?
9. What kind of recovery setup do you have?
If the dentist cannot adequately answer your questions, you might want to refrain from getting the procedure done, at least until after you can get a second opinion. And if, after all your research, you’re still uncomfortable with the use of anesthesia, there are alternatives.
“There are other options that can work, for example having the parent hold the child in a blanket to keep him still — like you’d do in the emergency room if the child required stitches,” Dr. Jim Nickman, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, told Today.
Bottom line—make sure you are making an informed decision, and don’t do anything you’re not completely comfortable with.