Adverse events are common in pediatric dental patients

By Melissa Busch, associate editor

July 23, 2021 -- In a recent study, approximately 90% of U.S. pediatric dentists reported having at least one child experience an adverse event during dental treatment within the past five years. The findings were presented on July 23 at the virtual International Association for Dental Research (IADR) meeting.

Though the most prevalent adverse events involved self-inflicted trauma after children received local anesthesia, pediatric dentists also reported major events, including death, during this time frame, Dr. William Nicola, one of the study researchers from the University of Toronto, said during a poster session.

"These events are extremely common," he said.

Each year, an estimated 251,000 people will die due to adverse events or medical errors. Such errors represent the third most common cause of death in the U.S.

In dentistry, an adverse event is considered to be any unfavorable and generally unforeseen incident caused by an error or omission during treatment that has negative consequences for a patient's health. Children are at greater risk for these events often due to their inability to sit still and lack of cooperation, along with the consequent use of medication or sedation to manage their behaviors.

To determine the number of adverse dental events that occur among children, the researchers had 704 active members of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) complete an online anonymous survey. They extrapolated information to determine the annualized numbers for specific adverse events affecting children at pediatric practices.

Within the past five years, 94% of pediatric dentists reported having at least one child experience an adverse event during dental treatment, Nicola said.

Approximately 82% of dentists reported that the two most prevalent adverse events were self-inflicted trauma to numb soft tissues after children received local anesthesia and nausea and/or vomiting. The annualized estimates of affected children were 7,816 for self-inflicted injury and 7,003 for nausea and/or vomiting.

Additionally, 14% of respondents reported a major adverse event, including death, neurological damage, and cardiovascular depression, with an annualized estimate of 442 affected children, he noted.

"Pediatric dental adverse events are extremely prevalent and must be addressed for the safety of the patients, as well as the mental health and well-being of the pediatric dentists," Nicola said.

Copyright © 2021

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