East Bay child’s death triggers investigation into safety of anesthesia or sedation for young patients

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SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The Dental Board of California has launched an investigation into whether state regulations are providing sufficient safety in the use of anesthesia on young patients after an East Boy died following a routine dental procedure, according to a statement released Thursday by the California Dental Association.

The board’s investigation was prompted by a request from the California Senate Business and Professions Committee “into whether the state’s laws, regulations and policies” minimize the potential for injury or death from the administration of general anesthesia or deep sedation for pediatric dental patients.

The Dental Board of California is responsible for dental licensure, enforcement of rules and regulations as well as investigations.

“CDA is saddened by the tragic loss of a young life and is deeply committed to ensuring that dental care is safely and effectively provided every day, to every person,” the CDA said.

6-year-old Caleb Sears passed away just days after a trip to the dentist’s office. His father, Tim Sears, says Caleb was given general anesthesia so his tooth could be removed.

“Since he would need to drill into his palate, Caleb needed to be sedated,” the family told KRON.

According to the family, the oral surgeon recommended general anesthesia because the boy had an extra tooth embedded in his palate that would affect how his permanent teeth would come in.

In California, oral surgeons are trained to perform dental procedures and administer general anesthesia. Sears believes had a separate person been administering and monitoring Caleb’s anesthesia, the outcome would have been much different.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that if there had been a separate person whose job was just to do the anesthesia and monitor Caleb,” Sears said, “that he’d still be alive.”

On Tuesday, Sears will head to Sacramento and give that same opinion to lawmakers, pushing for Assembly Bill 2235. That bill would regulate anesthesia use among young patients.Below is the full statement issued by the California Dental Association:

CDA is saddened by the tragic loss of a young life and is deeply committed to ensuring that dental care is safely and effectively provided every day, to every person. To that end, we are pleased that the Dental Board of California responded immediately to a request from the California Senate Business and Professions Committee to investigate whether the state’s laws, regulations and policies are sufficient to minimize the potential for injury or death from the administration of general anesthesia or deep sedation for pediatric dental patients. The Board expects to have this evaluation completed by the end of this year and CDA looks forward to learning from this evidenced-based approach what actions may be taken to improve patient safety.

As we await the results of the Board’s evaluation, we are reassured by knowing that each year in California, thousands of children receive general anesthesia to protect them from the stress of receiving medically necessary dental treatment; and deaths from the anesthesia are rare. This strong safety record is built upon the significant anesthesia training required and the in-depth, in-person evaluation the Board must complete before awarding a dentist a permit to provide general anesthesia in California. In addition, the dental profession has taken a leadership role in developing evidence-based practices for the administration of anesthesia and sedation, with the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, providing guidelines and standards for their members. While these steps support the safe provision of care, continued analysis and evaluation is beneficial to ensure this strong safety record continues into the future, for every patient, every day.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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