Administering anesthetics in a dental office this every bit as dangerous as getting anesthetics before surgery in a hospital. If you are admitted to a hospital for surgery you can rest assured that a trained physician, one with experience and a degree in anesthesiology will be in charge of your sedation. When you go to the dentist, however, even for something even as simple is a tooth extraction or to fill a cavity, you’ll receive potent anesthetics from a dental assistant sometimes with only a two-year Associate’s degree. While a professional anesthetist can rely on the training of 8 or more years of college in the specialty of anesthesia, the dental assistant training is limited to following state mandated guidelines and reading the back of prescription medication bottles. Sometimes the dental anesthetist is an independent contractor hired by the dentist to administer the anesthetics.
The American Association of pediatric dentistry, as well as the American Association of pediatric medicine, have published a set of guidelines that Dental anesthetists are advised to follow. Some of the basic signs that the anesthetist is required to monitor is a patient’s temperature, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels. In addition, the dental anesthetist is required to make sure the patient stays awake in the office for at least 20 minutes after the sedation wears off. When the patient is proven to be awake and alert and has been given sufficient water to drink the patient can be released.
Standard dental sedation brochures stress the importance of being hydrated after the 20 minutes resting period. This is critical because the patient is advised to do a mini-fast, not drink anything or eat anything for up to 24 hours before the dental visit. Fasting can leave a patient, especially a young child severely dehydrated. Extenuating circumstances like a long ride home on a hot day in a car with a broken air conditioner can exacerbate the deadly effects of dehydration and can cause death in young children whose systems are more delicate. Such was the case of a four-year-old Oklahoma child who died of dehydration as a result of the negligence of the dentist, the dental office, and the subcontracted anesthetist. Court records indicate that the anesthetist failed to properly monitor the child’s vital signs during the dental procedure, failed to keep the child present after the procedures, and failed to advise or give the child any fluids for rehydration. The child’s family what’s awarded $500,000 in a settlement where the plaintiff’s admitted no guilt. Oklahoma State officials have taken no legal action against the dental team to date.
Article and Image Credit: Original Dallas Morning News Deadly Denistry Series