February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) reminds parents 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.
Untreated cavities can cause pain, infections, and can lead to problems eating, speaking, and learning. Although generally thought of for adult dental procedures, many children receive sedation and anesthesia, even for what would be considered routine dental care like cavity fillings, due to special needs, fear, anxiety, or procedural pain.
“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 Angela Mund, DNP, CRNA. “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, 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 Mund. “Even 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 are highly educated, trained, and qualified anesthesia experts. They provide 50 million anesthetics per year in the United States, working in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered. CRNAs are skilled to provide safe, high-quality, and cost-effective care as members of patient-centered dental care teams in all settings, including dental offices, in accordance with state law.
CRNAs have the education and experience to react quickly to emergency situations in dental care settings, possessing the expertise to administer the anesthesia and focus solely on the patient’s condition and intervene as necessary if critical events occur during the procedure. They also deliver quality care to rural and other medically underserved areas, where they ensure access to anesthesia care to populations that would otherwise have to travel significant distances from their homes for treatment.