Red Deer dentist says he warned province about sedating children

Double duty was wrong

A Red Deer dentist says he warned the Health Minister about the lack of dental sedation guidelines for children about four months before a four-year-old suffered a brain injury at an Edmonton dental clinic.

Dr. Michael Zuk said he was noticing stories out of the U.S. about children dying at the dentist. A colleague also had concerns so Zuk faxed Health Minister Sarah Hoffman about Alberta’s weak sedation guidelines that allowed dentists to do both sedation and dental treatment.

He said even if the Edmonton dentist had done everything right in September, he was still doing double duty.

“It’s kind of like driving a sports car and texting. You just can’t do it really well,” said Zuk on Tuesday.

Zuk, who doesn’t sedate children, said he never received a response from the minister.

“I just sent that warning recommending the Health Minister look into it. Three or four months later, a kid’s in a coma.”

A response from the minister’s office was currently unavailable.

Zuk said Alberta had the worst guidelines for sedation, a matter that can really be life and death.

“Kids are more susceptible to injuries during sedation than adults are. It’s the size of their bodies.”

He said other provinces have rules and it shouldn’t take more than a month for the Alberta Dental Association and College to put rules in place.

Last week the dental association banned dentists from administering deep sedation or general anesthesia while simultaneously performing a treatment.

“Everything right now is in limbo. They just suspended dual duty. They haven’t nailed down what is permissible,” Zuk said.

The association said it started a review of sedation practices more than a year ago that is still underway, but the changes were to take effect immediately.

Zuk recommends parents request sedation be provided by a pediatric anesthesiologist while a dental professional does dental work if their child must be sedated with anything deeper than nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas.