By Dr. Robert Brockett
The lead story by Kate Snow from NBC on Megyn Kelly’s news hour at 7 p.m. on a recent Sunday night, airing again that Monday morning on the Today Show, was a report on two deaths that occurred in dental offices, one in California and one in Texas. It was a provocative and heart-wrenching story about two young children who died in the chair after going in for routine, necessary dental procedures. Obviously, things like this should never happen. It causes everyone in the dental field to stop and take a look at what we do on a daily basis.
As you are reading this article, there are children (and adults) being prepared for dental procedures and for the administration of some type of anesthesia. Most anesthetics given in dental offices are local anesthetics, with the occasional use of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas. Most children can tolerate minor procedures done with these anesthetics. Neither of these agents are completely benign, and it takes professional training in their use. I can assure you that your general dentist has had many hours of use of local anesthesia and nitrous oxide both in dental school and in continuing education required by the state of Florida for continued licensure.
There are other levels of anesthesia, including IV sedation and general anesthesia, that are given routinely in outpatient dental facilities. The inception of anesthesia began with William T.G. Morton, a dentist in Massachusetts, who performed a tooth extraction after administering ether to a patient on Sept. 30, 1846. Then, a general surgeon had Dr. Morton come to the operating theater at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he administered the same general anesthetic for the surgeon to remove a tumor from a patient’s neck, much to the amazement of the observers in the hospital.
Obviously, a lot has changed since 1846; however, anesthesia and dentistry have been intimately linked ever since. You and your children will…