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Is your child's dentist using dangerous sedatives?

The dread a visit to the dentist induces causes many to avoid the situation altogether at the expense of their oral health. Children may get their fear of dentists from the attitudes of their parents, but many kids simply feel uncomfortable from the moment they walk into the unfamiliar setting. Additionally, a child who has experienced pain or discomfort in a dentist's office may be reluctant to return.

Dentists are trying new ways to make visits to their offices more appealing to your children. Some clinics decorate with child-friendly images, and their specially-trained staff work to put children at ease. Dentists may offer prizes and rewards to entice your children and provide TV or video games to distract them. However, one controversial way in which dentists are placing tiny patients at ease is the use of sedatives, which could cause harm.

Adverse effects of sedation on children

A small dose of liquid or gaseous sedative places your child in a relaxed state so that a dentist can perform such routine work as filling a cavity or pulling a tooth. Dentists find it is easier to complete these procedures on calm, cooperative patients. However, you may be concerned about the number of small children, particularly those between ages two and five, who suffer adverse events while under sedation, such as:

  • The child falling too deeply into a sedated state
  • Airways becoming obstructed
  • Vocal cords contracting, complicating breathing efforts
  • Blood oxygen levels dropping
  • The heart stopping

There seem to be some factors that increase the chances of these adverse effects. For example, if your child is overweight or has enlarged tonsils, he or she may be more susceptible to complications while under sedation. For unknown reasons, children with developmental disabilities have a considerably higher risk.

The danger is real

If complications arise while your child is sedated at a New York hospital, doctors are nearby with emergency equipment and special skills to manage the situation. In a dentist's office, however, staff may have little experience dealing with such emergencies. It may require a call to emergency responders and valuable time would be lost. Furthermore, all this may be for unnecessary. Sedation is not part of routine dental practices, and some suggest dentists may be placing children at risk to increase their profits by charging the cost of sedation medication.

You may be shocked to learn that thousands of airway obstructions occur while very young children are under sedation. Over 40 children have died from complications due to sedation. You have a right to know your dentist's policies and to seek legal advice if your child suffers negative consequences because of those polices.

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