Boy’s death puts dental anesthesiology back in the news

| Jun 10, 2019 | Uncategorized

People often say they fear going to the dentist, but the truth is that dentists hold a lot of trust. Your patients sit down, lie back and allow you to reach into their mouths with drills and other tools. This trust isn’t usually a matter of life-or-death, but sometimes it is.

The recent death of a 4-year-old boy has put dental anesthesiology back in the news. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the boy died after he received two doses of anesthesia and stopped breathing. It’s terrifying to think that something like this could ever happen in your office, and it’s a strong reminder that you may want to take safety measures beyond those mandated by existing laws.

Getting ahead of the existing standards

California’s legislators have faced public pressure to increase the standards for dental anesthesia ever since the 2015 death of a Bay Area 6-year-old. The boy’s family and their supporters pushed for improved safety measures, and some of these led to the passage of Caleb’s Law in 2017. More recently, the Governor signed Senate Bill 501 into law, and it carries new requirements for dentists who want to use deep sedation or general anesthesia for patients under the age of 13:

  • The dentist and two other staff need to be present throughout the procedure.
  • If the dentist is giving the anesthesia, then the dentist and at least one other staff need to be PALS certified, and the second PALS certified staff member needs to monitor the patient.
  • If the dentist is giving the anesthesia, the dentist is responsible for any emergency treatment.
  • If a dedicated anesthesiologist is helping the dentist, the anesthesiologist and dentist, or other trained staff, must be PALS certified and present throughout the procedure.
  • If a dedicated anesthesiologist is helping the dentist, the anesthesiologist is responsible for any emergency treatment.

The law doesn’t take effect until January 1, 2022, but you may want to start reviewing your practices now. You may also want to consult with a lawyer who has a deep understanding of dental law to review what other changes SB 501 may bring your way.

Stay focused on patient safety

You focus on your patients’ safety because you care about them, not just because the law says you must. It’s a matter of trust. And as California’s families wonder who they can trust with their children’s lives, you may want to show you’re already surpassing the current standards to follow the stricter standards of 2022.