Why would a child need sedation or general anesthesia just to have teeth fixed?

Unfortunately, many children suffer from serious, potentially painful dental diseases. Unlike such health conditions as colds or flu, dental diseases won't go away on their own. When treatment is required for a serious dental condition, sedation or general anesthesia may be recommended to make delivery of that required treatment possible in a safe and comfortable manner. Without treatment dental diseases can adversely affect, learning, communication, nutrition and other activities necessary for normal growth and development.

Is there a safer, less risky way to treat a child's teeth?

When a child (or a person of any age with a disability) needs extensive dental treatment, general anesthesia is an accepted standard of care. This standard is supported by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. General anesthesia is also an accepted standard of care for situations involving children who have limited comprehension or children who are extremely uncooperative and require dental care that is technically difficult or sensitive to deliver.

How are pediatric dentists making sure sedation and anesthesia are safe?

Pediatric dentists are carefully trained in the safe administration of sedation as part of their specialty education which lasts two to three years beyond dental school. This advanced education includes practice experience in a hospital environment.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry encourages all dentists to follow the Guidelines for the Elective Use of Conscious Sedation, Deep Sedation and General Anesthesia in Pediatric Dental Patients. The Guidelines which were passed 13 years ago and revised several times since, recommend such procedures as patient evaluation, informed consent, monitoring, and back-up emergency services.

Successful completion of the examination permits one to be designated a Diplomat of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and to become a member of the The College of Diplomates

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, along with a number of dental universities, offers continuing education courses on sedation every year to keep the dental profession well informed of developments in safe sedation techniques.

Have any children been injured from complications of sedation or anesthesia while under a pediatric dentist's care?

Pediatric dentists have an extensive safety record in sedation procedures. At this time, we are not aware of a single case of morbidity or mortality in a pediatric dental office when the AAPD Guidelines have been followed conscientiously.

Is it likely that a child under sedation or anesthesia will suffer serious complications or die while under a pediatric dentist's care?

Dental treatment requiring general anesthesia in a hospital environment poses similar risks to those inherent in any surgical procedure for children. The mortality rate for children undergoing general surgery procedures is one in 250,000.

If sedation or anesthesia is recommended to treat my child's teeth, how can I be sure this is the best option?

Ask your pediatric dentist to explain all treatment options and their benefits and risks. Parents should have the right to be carefully informed about the benefits and risks of any dental treatment for their children. In fact parents have the opportunity to sign informed consent papers before sedation is administered to their child.

How can parents be sure their child is safe in a dental office?

Parents should ask the dentist about his/her training, medications to be used, and monitoring and emergency procedures. If questions are not answered to a parents' satisfaction, parents should seek a second opinion.

To avoid risks of dental surgery for your child, make sure your child won't need it. The earlier your child sees a pediatric dentist, the better your chances of preventing dental problems. Pediatric dentists recommend first dental visits no later than the child's first birthday in order to prevent serious oral conditions that may require complicated treatment later on.

Source: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry 1999 .