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The Potential Dangers of General Anesthesia in Dental Procedures

Aug 12, 2016 - Personal Injury by

Commercials for dental offices are becoming more common on television and radio, and the big sell appears to involve no pain through the use of general anesthesia. Like any dental patients, our Tuscaloosa accident attorneys support the overall concept of pain-free dental visits. However, we also believe that the delivery of anesthesia in dental offices should follow the same strict standards observed in hospital operating rooms.

Strict Standards Might Have Prevented Recent Child Fatalities

In a typical operating room, surgeons are responsible for performing operations, but anesthesiologists are responsible for closely monitoring patients throughout the procedure. Since dental offices often leave all responsibilities in the hands of one oral surgeon focusing on the procedure, things can go very wrong, such as what happened last year in California, when ABC 10 News reported the death of a 6-year old boy during a tooth extraction. Allegedly, no one noticed that he stopped breathing until it was too late.

A dedicated anesthesiologist in the room might have prevented this death, along with several others that occurred in California in the same year, and a new law that should tighten up dental office anesthesia requirements (Caleb’s Law), has moved to the CA Senate floor this month. Meanwhile, anyone in Alabama considering the use of general anesthesia for dental procedures needs to know the regulations that are in effect in this state.

The Alabama Dental Practice Act states that the use of general anesthesia is permitted when dental practitioners meet certain qualifications, including the following:

  • Meets training requirements
  • Employs or works with a qualified medical doctor who is part of the anesthesiology staff at an accredited hospital and remains on the premises until patients under general anesthesia regain consciousness and is discharged
  • Has a facility that is properly equipped for anesthesia and is staffed with supervised auxiliary personnel who can assist the dentist with procedures and emergencies
  • Has current training in advanced cardiac life support and certification in basic life support

Are Alabama’s Regulations Enough to Protect Dental Patients?

Certainly, our state’s regulations demonstrate an understanding of the risks involved with general anesthesia use and an attempt to ensure that the appropriate professionals are nearby in case of emergency. Still, while the Alabama Dental Practice Act provides many administrative protections, it does not seem to specifically require that a separate anesthesiologist be in direct attendance in the room to monitor patients throughout every procedure.

Anyone who considers going under general anesthesia for dental procedures needs to take proactive action that helps ensure that they will be properly monitored during every minute of the process. It is advisable to ask pointed questions about the protective measures in use by a dental office to help prevent severe injuries or even fatalities. If constant monitoring is not part of the process, consider finding an office that employs a separate anesthesiologist for this purpose. Of course, in the event of injuries, seek experienced legal guidance.

Additional Resources

California legislative information, Caleb’s Law

Other Blog topics

Can Surgical Anesthesia Errors Be Prevented?, Tuscaloosa Medical Malpractice blog

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