When your child goes to the dentist to have teeth pulled or cavities treated, they sometimes need to be put to sleep.
But in rare cases this type of sedation can be dangerous or even deadly for children — and Mississippi medical experts are raising concerns about a lack of state safety regulations surrounding the procedures.
Dental work requiring general anesthesia often occurs at a hospital. But increasingly in Mississippi, experts said, it’s done in dental offices due to the cheaper price or because the dentist doesn’t have privileges at a hospital. Sedated children have died at dental offices in a number of states — usually after they stop breathing and can’t quickly be rescued — and some are worried the same could happen in Mississippi without more oversight.
“The outcome, I predict, if things continue as they are now, will soon, sadly, be a pediatric death — a completely unnecessary death,” Heddy-Dale Matthias, a Madison doctor who specializes in anesthesia, wrote in a recent letter to Gov. Phil Bryant. A Bryant spokesman declined to comment.
The Board of Dental Examiners has studied the issue for several months and could move forward with changing some of its anesthesia regulations at a Friday meeting. But Gaudet and other experts believe the board should consider overhauling Mississippi’s dental anesthesia regulations and examine banning the practice in dental offices altogether. The state’s anesthesia regulations were adopted more than 30 years ago and last updated in 2011.
Deaths in other states
In states including California and Texas, child deaths have prompted a push for regulatory changes. A 2013 University of Washington study found 44 cases dating back to 1980 where a child — usually between 2 and 5 years old — had died after dental general anesthesia or sedation. The researchers noted the cases they found “likely represent only a fraction of the overall” deaths during that period, and indicated many had occurred in dental offices.