A recent investigation by ABCNews has culminated in an article and stories on “Nightline” and “World News with Diane Sawyer”. “Death, Greed at the Dentist: American Children At Risk” recounts how more than a dozen children have died after being sedated by dentists, some as young as 18 months.
Apparently, the lure of thousands of additional dollars in fees has stimulated increasing attendance in weekend courses in oral sedation. These courses, set up at hotel ballrooms in local communities, promise to train dentists in how to safely administer sedation to both adults and children, in only 3 days.
According to a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a weekend course is not adequate to prepare a dentist with the emergencies that can arise through the use of oral sedatives.
While I did have training in intravenous sedation during my residency, I personally have found that the concentration required to perform excellent dentistry did not allow for proper monitoring of the sedated patient. With the exception of nitrous oxide/conscious sedation, I do not sedate my patients.
I must mention here that there are bona fide specialists in the field of dental anesthesiology but that does not necessarily credentialize them as experts in the field of advanced restorative or cosmetic dentistry. Maloccurences can happen. Having the training and experience to properly handle critical, even life threatening emergencies, while a patient is sedated is paramount.
Doctors must be aware of not just what they know but also of what they don’t know. Weekend seminars are valuable sources of continuing education for private practitioners, but a single seminar does not an expert make. Under the best of circumstances, mal-occurrences happen.
It behooves the doctor to ensure the safety of his patient by acquiring sufficient training and it is the responsibility of a parent to ask about the doctor’s credentials before allowing their child to be sedated.
My heart aches for the parents. I cannot overemphasize the importance to seek out a board eligible or certified dental anesthesiologist if your child needs sedation in order to receive dental care.