After the tragic death of 3-year old Daleyza Hernandez Avila earlier this summer, the safety of children undergoing anesthesia for common dental procedures has attracted national attention.
This isn’t the first time in recent years that the safety of sedating children at the dentist’s office has made it into the spotlight. Back in 2012, a “Nightline” report highlighted the dangers of poorly trained dentists using sedation to increase profits and minimize inconvenience. Some dentists were found to use sedation for even routine cleanings and cavity treatments.
Despite the string of dentistry-related deaths that began to attract media attention years ago and the following series of recommendations from the American Dental Association, the recent tragedy in California highlights how important it still is for parents to be informed and ask questions.
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First, ask your dentist why they recommend sedation for the procedure if you’re not sure that it’s necessary. Sedation may be warranted for a long, complex, or painful procedure or for particularly young and nervous patients.
Many dentists don’t consider the risks of sedation to be worth the benefits for a routine cleaning, especially for very young patients with good home oral hygiene. Many pediatric dentists ease young children into routine cleanings as their comfort level allows.
Very few children are too nervous for a routine cleaning when the procedure is approached with consideration for the child’s emotional state. Many offices use music, moveable TVs, and other props to help children relax and enjoy their visit as much as possible.
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If your child needs to be sedated, you can make the process safer by reviewing the ADA’s guidelines for parents and guardians. Some dentists only have a few days’ worth of training in oral sedation techniques and aren’t prepared or experienced enough to deal with emergencies. Below are the questions that the ADA recommends asking your child’s dentist before sedation.*