Alberta dentists barred from providing single-operator anesthesia

Dentists in Alberta can no longer provide general anesthesia at the same time as they provide dental treatment.

Dental association ending single-operator model of simultaneously providing general anesthesia and dental care

The standards for the administration of general anesthetic by dentists varies by province. (CBC)

Dentists in Alberta are no longer allowed to administer general anesthesia and provide dental care without another operator present. 

The Alberta Dental Association and College said in a news release Tuesday it is permanently suspending "the single operator model of simultaneously providing deep sedation or general anesthesia and dental treatment."

Alberta was one of the last provinces that allowed dentists to perform both procedures simultaneously.

The practice has been sharply criticized by some medical professionals who say it can lead to medical disasters.
Amber Athwal as she appeared on Sept. 2, 2016, leaving her home for kindergarten orientation day and a trip to the dentist. (Courtesy of the Athwal family)

Last year four-year-old Amber Athwal was left with permanent brain damage after she stopped breathing during a visit to a dentist's office in Edmonton.

Amber was receiving general anesthesia at a downtown office by a dentist working under the single-operator model.

The dental college temporarily suspended the practice last year, though it said the decision was not related to Amber's case, saying it had been reviewing its anesthesia regulations for more than a year.

After consulting members, the college permanently ended the practice "effective immediately," it said in the release.
Amber Athwal at her fifth birthday party, celebrated at home with family and friends, earlier this year. (Supplied)

"We convened two town hall meetings and used a panel of experts in both dental and medical anesthesia to inform council," said CEO Dr. Randall Croutze.

The college will conduct a hearing for William Mather, the dentist involved in Amber's case, later this fall.

In February, Amber's family filed a statement of claim against Mather and eight staff members who were on duty that day, seeking a total of $26.5 million in damages, plus costs.