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Safety of General Anesthetic in Dental Offices in Ontario

Posted in General Dentistry

A Parents Concern

If you have ever waited while your young child endured even a simple procedure involving general anesthetic, then you’ll understand the general concern many parents have. When the unthinkable happens, and someone loses a child in death, how much more devastating when it’s not expected, or the result of a simple procedure. It has happened in Canada, and statistically it can happen again. Therefore, how safe are dental procedures involving anesthetic in Ontario?

General Anesthetic in Dental Offices

General anesthetic allows dentists to put kids to sleep, so they can remain perfectly still and relaxed while being treated for several dental problems. When your child’s dentist says that your child needs to be put under for a tooth extraction, root canal, or cavity treatment, it’s important to understand why. The goal is to make the procedure go as smooth and effective as possible. Sometimes their anxiety is the main concern and the reason for general anesthetic. For example, imagine a three-year-old with ten cavities that need repair. (Hypothetical.) Rather than multiple appointments involving needles and a little patient who doesn’t understand the need for it, all ten cavities can be fixed in one stress free appointment. Most dental repairs need a relatively motionless patient to preform them well and get good results.

General anesthetic in dental offices isn’t limited to children. Dental anxiety is common among adults and many ask for it or other forms of sedation to cope with relatively simple procedures. Young adults often require general anesthetic when having their wisdom teeth removed. This is especially true if the teeth (3rd molars) are impacted.

A Close Call in Saskatchewan

No matter the reason for anesthetic of any kind, parents alike want to be assured of its safety, especially after reading about close calls such as the case of five-year old Autumn Ferguson of Regina, Saskatchewan. (Read CBC News “’Absolute hell’: Parents say daughter, 5, almost died after routine dental surgery”.) After reviewing this account experts claim the chances of what happened to Autumn was one in four million odds.

General Anesthetic is “Low Risk”

The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper “The Varsity” explains how safe dental surgeries are in Ontario, in their November 2019 article “The low risks of dental surgery in Ontario.” Here they site Autumn Ferguson’s experience as an example and exception to modern statistics. One doctor in the article noted that; the reason dental procedures involving general anesthetic are so “low risk” in Ontario dental offices, is because of the high standards of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (the RCDSO). Dr. El-Mowafy pointed out that “Anesthesiologists are trained to not only prevent complications, but to choose the appropriate setting for patients to receive their care. And that dentists and anesthesiologists mitigate the risk of complications by ensuring that sick patients with certain comorbidities requiring prolonged monitoring or special equipment are seen in a hospital setting.”

National Library of Medicine Study

Interestingly, dental colleges throughout Canada have similar requirements and it’s possibly the reason safety statistics involving general anesthesia in dental offices are very consistent across our country. Globally, the risk is still very low according to the National Library of Medicine (NIH).  “After reviewing twenty studies involving death from general anesthesia in dental offices, it concluded that from 1955 to 2012 three in one-million deaths could be attributed to anesthesia and six in one million prior to 1955” – NIH. The reason for the much greater odds in our modern day can be attributed to the advancement of both the science of anesthesiology and the improved techniques of the skilled doctors we have today.

Erbsville Dental and General Anesthesia

Erbsville Dental now has an in-house Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon in Dr. John McIntosh. Dr. McIntosh has decades of experience and attention on office-based outpatient general anesthesia, wisdom teeth, dental implants, dental extractions, and oral pathology. Together with Dr. Stephen Mathews they have created a very safe place for pediatric and adult dentistry, including anxiety free general anesthesia. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask, call today at (519) 342-1166.

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.