Arielle is a charming six-year-old who likes reading, drawing, and birds. She hates cheese and going to the dentist. When the normally well-behaved little girl gets in a dentist’s chair, her whole personality changes. She kicks, screams, hollers, and locks her mouth closed.

Arielle is not alone. As many as one out every five children is afraid of visiting the dentist. Fears can make it very difficult to for children like Arielle to get the dental care they need. Parents in Wisconsin who experience this, may want to consider sedation dentistry.

Dental sedation uses medication to calm and relax a patient before a procedure. There are several types of dental sedation:

  • Nitrous oxide (laughing gas)
  • General anesthesia in the hospital
  • Conscious sedation in the dental office.

Nitrous oxide may not be enough to calm a very frightened child. General anesthesia is expensive. Many parents choose conscious sedation in the dentist’s office. The child is given one or more medications before the procedure. The child becomes drowsy and calm, and the dentist is able to do their work.

Drugs Used for Pediatric Dental Sedation

  • Chloral hydrate: A sedative hypnotic that makes the patient sleepy
  • Demerol (Meperidine): A narcotic pain reliever
  • Versed (Midazolam): A short acting anti-anxiety drug and muscle relaxant
  • Vistaril (hydroxyzine): An antihistamine with sedating effects that is usually used in combination with other medications.
  • Phenergan (promethazine): An antihistamine with sedating effects
  • Valium (diazepam): An anti-anxiety medication.

But the practice of dental sedation may be far more dangerous than parents realize. According to the Raven Maria Blanco Foundation, at least 45 children have died during dental sedation. Eight-year-old Raven Maria Blanco died during a routine dental procedure in 2007. The autopsy showed a lethal blood concentration of chloral hydrate.

Raven’s parents created the Raven Maria Blanco Foundation to warn parents of the risk of poorly trained dentists performing sedation dentistry. They say that many dentists perform sedation procedures after taking a weekend-long class during a hotel-conference style seminar.

"Give us three days, and we'll teach you both adult and pediatric protocols—serving patients from ages 5 to 95—that you can take home and implement immediately."

– conference brochure

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a weekend course is simply inadequate. Doctors who use sedation must calculate dosages precisely. A small error can cause permanent brain damage or death. And these classes don’t prepare dentists to handle an emergency.

The Milwaukee practicing wrongful death attorneys at Hupy and Abraham help families who have lost a loved one to dental negligence. Contact our Wisconsin medical malpractice lawyers to learn how you can find accountability through a Wisconsin wrongful death lawsuit. Call 800-800-5678 to schedule a free consultation.

Jason F. Abraham
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Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham