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Thursday, October 15, 1998 Published at 19:16 GMT 20:16 UK


Dentists want fewer anaesthetics

The BDA wants a reduction in the use of general anaesthesia

Dentists are calling for a reduction in the use of general anaesthesia after a spate of cases in which young patients have been ill or died, the BBC's Health Correspondent Fergus Walsh reports.

The BBC's Fergus Walsh on anaesthesia in dentistry
Ten-year-old Darren Denholm went into a coma while having his tooth out. Like other children, he was extremely frightened of going to the dentist and so had asked for general anaesthesia.

[ image: Ten-year-old Darren Denholm died last week]
Ten-year-old Darren Denholm died last week
His parents do not blame staff, but feel general anaesthetic should only be carried out in hospital where specialist resuscitation teams are on stand-by.

Isla Denholm, Darren's mother, said: "If he had been in hospital, if he had been there that second quicker, if the dentist had not had to phone an ambulance, maybe if they had been there right there and then at the time when Darren went into cardiac arrest...then maybe they would have save him."


Every year, 350,000 general anaesthetics are given in dental surgeries, mostly to children.

[ image: Isla Denholm: thinks Darren could have been saved if he was in hospital]
Isla Denholm: thinks Darren could have been saved if he was in hospital
Outside Britain, the use of general anaesthesia in dentistry is virtually unheard of.

Experts say that in the rare cases where they are required they should be administered in hospital theatres.

Professor Graham Roberts, professor of paediatric dentistry, said: "Ideally, I would like the number of anaesthetics used in dentistry fall to zero, but this is not practicable.

"There will still be a small number of people who find it impossible to accept treatments whilst awake."

However, he believes many people could be treated under local anaesthetic or local anaesthetic plus inhalation sedation.

'Overwhelmingly safe'

Many dentists are experts in calming the fears of youngsters, but the British Dental Association (BDA) says others are pressured by patients into giving general anaesthetics when it may not be necessary.

[ image: Anthony Kravitz: one death is one death too many]
Anthony Kravitz: one death is one death too many
Anthony Kravitz of the BDA said the association wanted a reduction in the use of general anaesthesia, but added that, in the majority of cases, it was "overwhelmingly safe".

However, he admitted: "There are episodes and deaths each year and one death and one bad episode are one death and one episode too many."

Meanwhile, in Hampshire a five-year-old boy is in critical condition after suffering brain damage under anaesthetic when he was having a tooth removed.

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