Avoiding anaesthesia for children with less invasive treatment


The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne [RDHM] is helping children with severe dental conditions to avoid treatment under general anaesthetic with less invasive treatments in the chair. This practice was recently demonstrated in the case of six-year-old patient Lily de Cata.

Referred to the hospital to undergo day surgery for her caries, which required extensive restorations and extractions, the patient was instead treated at RDHM’s primary care department where she underwent less invasive treatment without anaesthetic.

In the last financial year [2014–2015], oral health therapists from RDHM’s primary care team treated 34% of referrals in the chair, meaning that 324 of 956 children managed to avoid general anaesthetic and were treated at the chair instead.

Oral health therapist, Jessica Buhagiar, said she made sure that both Lily and her parents understood the treatment that Lily would receive.

“Lily was quite eager to have her treatment at the chair but her parents were at first concerned in regards to her behaviour in the chair and whether she would cope for procedures,” Buhagiar said. “I’m always sure to explain the procedure step by step so there are no surprises to the patients, and using language that the child will understand. For example, the suction is known as Mr Thirsty and the drill is Mr Bumpy.”

Buhagiar said it was important to help kids be accepting of dental treatment at a young age. “If the patient has a positive experience in the chair, they will not be afraid to return for future dental experiences. Although this can be challenging at times, it is also very rewarding watching a young patient leave the clinic with a smile.”

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