How safe is deep sedation or general anesthesia while providing dental care?

Jeffrey D. Bennett, Kyle J. Kramer, Robert C. Bosack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Background Deep sedation and general anesthesia are administered daily in dental offices, most commonly by oral and maxillofacial surgeons and dentist anesthesiologists. Methods The goal of deep sedation or general anesthesia is to establish a safe environment in which the patient is comfortable and cooperative. This requires meticulous care in which the practitioner balances the patient's depth of sedation and level of responsiveness while maintaining airway integrity, ventilation, and cardiovascular hemodynamics. Results Using the available data and informational reports, the authors estimate that the incidence of death and brain injury associated with deep sedation or general anesthesia administered by all dentists most likely exceeds 1 per month. Conclusions Airway compromise is a significant contributing factor to anesthetic complications. The American Society of Anesthesiology closed claim analysis also concluded that human error contributed highly to anesthetic mishaps. The establishment of a patient safety database for anesthetic management in dentistry would allow for a more complete assessment of morbidity and mortality that could direct efforts to further increase safe anesthetic care. Practical Implications Deep sedation and general anesthesia can be safely administered in the dental office. Optimization of patient care requires appropriate patient selection, selection of appropriate anesthetic agents, utilization of appropriate monitoring, and a highly trained anesthetic team. Achieving a highly trained anesthetic team requires emergency management preparation that can foster decision making, leadership, communication, and task management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number131
Pages (from-to)705-708
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • deep sedation
  • general anesthesia
  • Morbidity and mortality
  • patient safety
  • risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)

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