Alberta dentist claims his warning to province about sedation protocols was ignored

Dental sedation in progress. Global News

A dentist from Red Deer says he faxed a letter to Alberta’s health minister in May, warning her about the dangers of the dental college’s protocols surrounding sedation of children.

In a letter dated May 13, 2016 and shared on the website Alberta Dental Association Problems?, Dr. Michael Zuk writes the Alberta Dental Association and College’s sedation protocols are not specific. Part of the title reads: “does a child need to die to get their attention?”

Scroll down to read the full letter.

In the letter, Zuk stated he was contacted by another dentist who sought direction about the sedation of children from the college and felt there was no direct protocol or policy in place.

“This is not something that can be left in the grey zone,” Zuk wrote.

“Children may die in the dentist’s chair from too much local anesthetic or complications from surgery/sedation.”

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He asked that the province demand a committee be struck to “create some simple guidelines to keep Albertans’ children safe at the dentist.”

READ MORE: Edmonton family says little girl left in coma after dental visit

On Sept. 7, a four-year-old girl was rushed to hospital from a dental clinic. Her family said she was left in a coma during a dental procedure.

Amber Athwal remains unresponsive. She’s now at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton.

Her family said they’ve been told an MRI showed the little girl has a brain injury, although the severity of the injury has not yet been established.

READ MORE: Alberta dental association suspends single operator model for deep sedation, anesthesia 

On Oct. 28, the ADAC adopted a motion to “immediately suspend” the practice of allowing one dentist to provide deep sedation or general anesthesia while also providing dental treatment.

Previously, Alberta dentists could sedate patients and perform a dental procedure at the same time by themselves. If a patient requires surgery at a hospital, an anesthesiologist must be present during the procedure.

The CEO of the college said it started looking at the issue of sedation over a year ago. Dr. Randall Croutze didn’t say when the review would be done but said the decision was made to immediately suspend the single operator model.

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The college is also investigating Athwal’s case.

READ MORE: Alberta health minister meets with family of girl who fell into coma after dental visit 

The health minister has also met with the Athwal family. Sarah Hoffman said they discussed the treatment Amber’s been receiving so far, along with her future options.

READ MORE: Dental sedation expert ‘frustrated beyond imagination’ over anesthesia rules 

According to Zuk, an opportunity was missed.

In another letter posted on the website, Zuk writes his concerns about the sedation guidelines were ignored.

“Numerous warnings and concerns about other issues were made to the ADA&C but I was ignored,” Zuk wrote.

“We all share in this tragedy, but I am asking why my email (fax) warning did not even receive the courtesy of a response.”

A May 2016 fax which Zuk says he sent to the health minister, as posted on
A Nov. 2016 followup letter which Zuk says he sent to the health minister, as posted on

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