Thursday, March 8, 2012

The risks of dental sedation and how to make it safer

My son Danny is one of those impossible dental patients who cannot be worked on safely without sedation. A little Valium before a dental appointment does not do the trick. It may be enough to put him to sleep during the van ride to the dentist, but as soon as anyone gets near his mouth or touches his face he is a wide-awake wild man. 

Danny has had his teeth cleaned successfully using IV sedation, but this is not a risk-free procedure. A Detroit Free Press article from February 19, 2012, "Painless, at what price? Risks of dental office sedation prompt calls for tighter regulation" by Patricia Anstett, exposes the risks of dental sedation and how to improve training for dentists and the overall safety of sedation procedures.

The use of dental sedation is growing most with the use of conscious or moderate sedation involving the use of oral or intravenous medicine to relax a person. Deaths from dental sedation are rare but alarming, especially because some of the deaths have occurred in children with cerebral palsy.

According to the article:

  • "Michigan has not updated state laws to comply with 2007 national recommendations from the American Dental Association calling for more training of doctors performing sedation, and it is one of only two states that don't require permits for providers doing the procedures." 
  • "Michigan's Board of Dentistry has been reviewing ways to strengthen dental sedation regulations, which have been largely unchanged since 1997. The board expects to adopt new standards this year and is likely to address them at its April 12 meeting, said Rae Ramsdell, director of the Bureau of Health Professions in the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulation…The rules are likely to require more training for dental practices offering moderate sedation."
  • Deaths from dental sedation are difficult to track. Many deaths and complications are never recorded as dental-related because they may occur at home or in a hospital.
The Michigan Board of Dentistry will be releasing a final draft of regulations to improve the training of dentists and the safety of dental sedation soon. It must hold a public hearing on the new regulations and publish the standards.

How to comment on the proposed regulations: Write: Michigan Board of Dentistry, Department of Licensing and Regulation, Bureau of Health Professions; P.O. Box 30670, Lansing 48909

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