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The BBC's Karen Allen
"Dental practises will face tighter controls"
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Friday, 21 July, 2000, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Anaesthesia ban for dentists
Dentists have welcomed the change
Dentists are to be banned from using general anaesthetics in their practices.

It follows a number of deaths of children after having dental treatment under general anaesthesia.

From 2002, any dental work which requires general anaesthesia must be carried out in a hospital.

The use of general anaesthesia is relatively rare in dental practice, but a number do still administer it to patients.

The General Dental Council issued guidelines two years ago which said that only doctors who are specialist anaesthetists should administer general anaesthesia.

The decision to move such treatment to hospitals is aimed at improving patient safety.

Between 1996 and 1999, eight people died after receiving a general anaesthetic in a dentist's surgery. Five of these were children.

In 1998, 10-year-old Darren Denholm, from West Lothian, Scotland, received general anaesthetic while having his tooth out at a dental clinic in south Edinburgh.

He collapsed, went into a coma, and died.

We are bringing to an end general anaesthetics in the dentist's chair

Prof Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer

Investigations into the deaths found that many were avoidable. Faulty equipment, inexperienced staff and lack of resuscitation skills were blamed in some cases.

The ban followed a government review headed by Professor Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer for England.

He said: "We are bringing to an end general anaesthetics in the dentist's chair which have been responsible for a small number of tragic deaths, many involving children."

Before the ban is implemented, there will be increased regulation of dental surgeries where general anaesthesia can be used.

They will have to be registered and inspected to ensure they have trained staff, adequate equipment and the ability to deal with patients who suffer adverse reactions.

Changes welcomed

John Renshaw, chairman of the British Dentists' Association's executive board, welcomed the changes.

"We are pleased that the government has listened to our concerns and taken steps to remove general anaesthesia from general dental practice.

"We look forward to developing new hospital-based general anaesthesia facilities for appropriate patients."

However, he said money should be made available to develop alternatives. In many instances, patients are given general anaesthetic because they are "afraid" of the dentist.

"We are disappointed that funding has not been found to support and develop alternative treatments for the considerable number of patients who require special attention."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said that in Scotland the process of confining general dental anaesthesia to hospitals was already well under way and it might be achieved before the 2002 deadline.

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29 Jun 00 | Health
Dentistry 'being ignored'
09 Mar 00 | Health
One in four 'fear dentist'
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