May 2019 Volume LIV Number 3


Ask the Policy Center

Parent-Friendly Answers on the Safety of Sedation

May 2016 Volume LI Number 3

Question: "I saw on the news that a child died in a dental chair. How could a child die from dental treatment under sedation (or general anesthesia)?" 

Talking Points

  • This is truly a tragic event, and our deepest sympathies are with the patient’s family.
  • Since it is still under investigation, I don’t know the specifics of the case. However, I can tell you about all the safeguards in our practice to protect children when treated with sedation (general anesthesia).
  • Although we have an excellent safety record in treating children, even one child in this situation is one too many. That’s why pediatric dentistry has been at the forefront of ensuring patient safety during sedation and anesthesia. 
  • The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, along with the American Academy
  • of Pediatrics, have developed guidelines for education, training and use of sedation and anesthesia.
  • These guidelines, endorsed by the American Dental Association, reflect the highest safety measures for children undergoing sedation and anesthesia.
  • The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry supports state regulations that limit the practice of deep sedation and general anesthesia to qualified, appropriately trained individuals. Parents are encouraged to ask their dentist about their training in sedation, particularly in sedating children. 
  • Dental sedation and anesthesia are very safe, as shown by solid science and clinical experience.
  • Some children are too young to understand or cooperate for routine dental treatment. Effective sedative and anesthetic techniques have helped thousands of children to safely undergo dental treatments they might otherwise be unable to receive.
  • It is of utmost importance that every doctor discuss the risks and benefits of all
  • treatments, including sedation (anesthesia) with parents when there is a need for
  • medical or dental treatment involving sedation (anesthesia) services.
  • Parents deserve to be fully informed and have trust in their child’s dentist. If parents are not satisfied with the answers to their questions and concerns, they should consult with another pediatric dentist. 
  • There are many dentists fully trained and qualified in the use of sedation and anesthesia, and the AAPD can help parents find one in their area ( and

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