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Boy's death highlights risks of dental sedation

Over half of pediatric dental anesthesia and sedation claims involve death or permanent brain injury

As a father of four children, I can’t imagine what the family of a three-year-old boy is going through following the death of their son from a routine dental procedure.

The little boy’s gums were inflamed and infected, so his mom took him to a Kansas pediatric dentist, who recommended pulling some teeth. The news reports are sparse on details of what happened at the dental office. We do know, though, that the young patient was sedated for the procedure.

Sedation involves the administration of medications to reduce anxiety, irritability or excitement. Some sedatives are given orally while others are provided intravenously (IV)

One news outlet reported that “anesthesiologist said [the three-year-old patient] was doing fine for about 30 minutes under sedation.” Then, as the dentist was working on the boy’s lower jaw, there was cheek swelling and the boy’s pulse slowed down.

Dentists and physician offices are increasingly recommending sedatives for treatments. While sedatives may help certain patients tolerate procedures, they don’t come without risks. Sedatives are central nervous system (CNS) depressants and require close monitoring of vital signs and other clinical data to make sure that a patient’s cardiovascular and respiratory functions don’t plummet, which can lead to a code.

Plus, there’s often an added risk to receiving sedation in an office setting because many offices aren’t staffed to handle a code situation/emergency. Some offices have anesthesiologists on site, for example, while others only have certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) to manage sedation and anesthesia care.

According to new reports about the Kansas pediatric dental death office case, unidentified members of the dental/health care team began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and called 911. Although he was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, he later tragically died.

In our experience in handling Texas medical malpractice, we’ve seeing an uptick in wrongful death and permanent brain injury claims involving anesthesia or sedation provided in dental and physician offices.

Closed claim studies from two malpractice carriers showed that 53% of pediatric dental anesthesia and sedation claims involved patient death of permanent brain damage. The average patient age of in the closed claims study was 3.6 years. Most of the closed claims involved administration of sedation alone. Fewer cases involved local anesthesia alone, and still fewer cases had patients who received general anesthesia.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured because of dental of physician office sedation in Texas, then contact a top-rated experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.


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