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Alberta dentists no longer allowed single operator sedation

Four-year-old Amber Athwal is shown in this photo taken in July 2016. Athwal went into a coma following a dental visit in September 2016.
Four-year-old Amber Athwal is shown in this photo taken in July 2016. Athwal went into a coma following a dental visit in September 2016. Supplied by family

The Alberta Dental Association and College (ADA&C) has permanently suspended single operator sedation.

The motion was passed at a meeting on May 24, which states that registered dentists in Alberta can no longer “simultaneously provide deep sedation or general anesthesia and dental treatment.”

The motion also requires the ADA&C council to adopt the American Society of Anesthesiologists Continuum of Depth of Sedation in defining various levels of sedation. The levels range from the lowest “minimal” to the highest “general.”

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

The new policy comes after five-year-old Amber Athwal suffered brain damage last September after being put under general anesthesia at an Edmonton dental clinic.

On Sept. 7, 2016, Amber Athwal was rushed to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton after undergoing a dental procedure at Dr. William Mather’s downtown office. Athwal went from being a healthy, functional, then-four-year-old to being unable to talk, walk or recognize her parents.

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READ MORE: Dentist, nurse respond to $26M Amber Athwal lawsuit, allege pre-existing condition

The Athwal family filed a lawsuit last month, suing Mather and eight members of his staff for $26.5 million in damages.

Mather has denied negligence led to Amber suffering brain damage. He has alleged any injuries Amber sustained after being put under general anesthesia happened because the family didn’t disclose Amber’s full medical history or exactly what she ate and drank before the procedure.

Mather will be sent before a tribunal to determine if he is guilty of unprofessional conduct. The Alberta Dental Association & College set the hearing for Oct. 16 at 9 a.m.

None of the allegations made in the legal documents have been proven in court.

— With files from Emily Mertz