Risks of dental sedation overblown

Dentistry

There are reports going around about the risks of dental sedation, but please don't panic, because there are far worse things to worry about. Photo Credit: Leeds City Council/Wikimedia Commons.

Various reports are going around lately about the risks of dental sedation, especially for children, and that the greed of the dental industry is killing children for the sake of money. One hates to suggest that the death of a child can be overlooked, but it’s getting blown out of proportion.

Risks of dental sedation decried

A number of reports going around on various websites and news organizations, such as the Huffington Post, ABC news and Britain’s The Daily Mail, decrying the practice of dental sedation, or using a sedative during a dental procedure. The story goes that a number of children are dying because of complications due to the use of anesthesia during a dental procedure, all for the purposes of lining dentists’ pockets, ostensibly they can charge more to sedate a child for a procedure.

The Daily Mail reports 31 children in the past 15 years had died due to dental anesthesia, according to information from the Raven Maria Blanco Foundation. The foundation is named for a young girl whose dentist gave her three times the dose of anesthesia she should have received, killing her. Granted, that practitioner was culpable but, thanks to loose state regulations concerning dental sedation, wasn’t stripped of his license nor did he go to prison for it.

By the numbers

Not to say that these cases are trivial; they aren’t. However, the number of incidents doesn’t begin to touch the biggest killers of children. The number one killer of children worldwide? According to MSNBC, that would be pneumonia, which accounts for 2 million fatalities in children under five per year. The second biggest? Diarrhea, brought on by disease. Dehydration and weakened immune systems lead to 1.5 million child fatalities annually. Most victims are under 2 years of age and caught the disease from contaminated drinking water. Combined, they account for 20 percent of all fatalities among children 5 years or younger.

Here in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control, the biggest cause of death for every age group up to 44 years of age is accidents. Dentists who don’t know what they’re doing with anesthesia are dangerous but it’s hardly a serious threat, statistically. One should be more afraid of General Motors; according to AutoBlog, initial estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates 32,310 people died in car accidents in 2011.

Jokers wild

In the 2008 Batman film “The Dark Knight,” Heath Ledger, as The Joker, says that people don’t get scared as long as something is “all part of the plan…even if the plan is horrifying!” The point is excruciatingly true; though the deaths of children via dental malpractice are certainly not trivial, they pale in comparison to other causes.

The news media loves death and destruction. It isn’t that they don’t care, but what CNN, HLN, Fox News and so forth won’t admit is that they bring this kind of thing up precisely because it’s scary. Children dying evokes base emotions, which they know will get attention, which means ratings. Greater ratings means more advertisers want to buy air time. That is what they are in the business of. Accidents…are commonplace. Just because a death is accidental doesn’t make it less tragic. However, it also doesn’t help sell cookies, hotel rooms or erectile dysfunction pills.

Sources

Huffington Post

ABC

Daily Mail

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34045311/ns/health-infectious_diseases/t/biggest-child-killers-pneumonia-diarrhea/#.UAC0ZlLPe_0

AutoBlog: http://www.autoblog.com/2012/05/07/u-s-traffic-deaths-fall-to-lowest-level-in-62-years/

CDC (PDF – Requires Adobe Reader): http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_06.pdf

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