February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) reminds parents and caregivers of the importance of not only knowing how to keep your child’s teeth healthy but also ensuring that they have access to safe dental anesthesia care. This month-long national health observance brings together thousands of dedicated professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers, and many others.
According to the National Library of Medicine, a third of children (ages 9-13 years old) experience dental fear and anxiety. In addition to kids’ fears of cavities and dental tools, it’s also natural for parents to be anxious or worried about routine procedures, especially if they require anesthetics.
“As an increasing number of patients of all ages and health comorbidities seek sedation and anesthesia for dental procedures in office-based settings, patient safety is the top priority in the delivery of these services,” said AANA president, Dru Riddle, PhD, DNP, CRNA, FAAN. “Children who require sedation or anesthesia for dental procedures can count on a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) to stay with them throughout their procedure and provide high-quality, patient-centered care.”
Sedation for any dental procedure increases the complexity of care and emphasizes the importance of having sedation and anesthesia provided by an anesthesia professional, such as a CRNA/nurse anesthesiologist/nurse anesthetist, who is focused only on patient safety, monitoring, and vigilance. “Each patient has a unique response to medications utilized for sedation and anesthesia. As anesthesia experts, CRNAs are available to continuously monitor the patient and can focus on changes in the patient’s condition and intervene as necessary in emergent situations,” said Riddle. “For what would be considered routine dental care like cavity fillings, a discussion of the anesthesia delivery plan is important to address any concerns and help the patient and the patient’s caregivers move forward to treat the dental health issues.”
Cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t. Attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life.
CRNAs have long been the predominant anesthesia professionals and leaders in providing anesthesia in all settings, including dental offices. CRNAs provide safe, high-quality, and cost-effective care as members of patient-centered dental care teams in accordance with state law.
CRNAs provide 50 million anesthetics per year in the United States and have the education and experience to react quickly to emergency situations in dental care settings, possessing the expertise to administer the anesthesia, focus solely on monitoring the patient’s condition, and intervene as necessary if critical events occur during the procedure.