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Dental Injuries During General Anesthesia

From dental props to jaw clamping and from bite blocks to laryngoscopes, there are a variety anesthetic tools that can cause dental damage. Research shows that about one third of all anesthetic claims are attributed to some type dental damage taking place during general anesthesia. As the most common complication of general anesthesia, dental injuries must be taken very seriously.

The most at-risk subset of individuals are elderly patients, children, and any patients with the following:

  • Veneers and Bridgework

  • Crowns

  • Dentures

  • Isolated or Protruding Teeth

  • Loose Teeth

  • Periodontal Disease

  • Any condition that could lead to airway obstruction or challenging intubation

Informed consent is critical, particularly when dealing with high risk patients. This means that risk factors must be outlined, documented, and contained within any and all consent discussions prior to the procedure. And while best practice certainly involves assessing risk factors and having a detailed discussion about informed consent, anesthesiologists must have a suitable knowledge of dental injury.

What Can Cause Dental Damage?

Dental damage during general anesthesia is typically attributed to equipment issues rather than errors on the physician’s end. However, improper use of medical devices is certainly a consideration as well. The following devices are most commonly linked to damage to the teeth and should thus be used with extreme attentiveness:

  • Bite Block: when used with a laryngeal mask, or even during an oral fibre optic endoscope, bite blocks can put too much pressure on teeth.

  • Dental Prop: while dental props or mouth gags are being insert, removed, or moved from one side of the mouth to the over, teeth may be damaged.

  • Jaw Clamp: during light anesthesia jaw clamping may put too much pressure on the teeth, especially when it is used with an oropharyngeal airway.

  • Laryngoscope: when used incorrectly the upper incisors may be damaged.

  • Oropharyngeal Airways: if cleared using force, a patient’s crowns, bridgework, or teeth may be damaged or dislodged.

  • Oropharyngeal Suction Device: this may result in a patient clamping their jaw.

A discussion with the patient regarding what equipment will be used prior to the procedure is highly recommended. The patient should be informed of both the benefits and risks associated with each option, all while ensuring that the patient is freely consenting to the use of the particular device chosen.

Reducing the Possibility of Dental Damage

All of this discussion regarding dental damage during anesthesia begs the question “what can be done to prevent or reduce the likelihood of dental damage?” Dental injuries remain the most common complication of general anesthesia and account for approximately 25 percent of the available closed insurance claims against anesthesia providers. Plus, dental injuries are the most common reason for litigation against anesthesiologists.

Damage to the teeth during general anesthesia via oroendotracheal intubation is very common. Various patients are at a high risk for dental injury including patients that are difficult to intubate and those with poor dentition or pathologically weakened teeth. Patients that are difficult to intubate have a 20 times greater risk of dental injury. Patients with poor pre-existing dental status present a 5 times greater risk of dental trauma.

With this in mind, anesthesiologists must take proactive measures to protect their patients, and themselves. Enter QuickGuard.

QuickGuard is low cost, simple solution that dramatically reduces the possibility of dental damage and costly insurance claims. It only takes fifteen seconds to soften and fifteen seconds to harden.

This cutting-edge piece of dental equipment boasts benefits to the patient and physician:

  • Quickly creates a protective barrier between teeth

  • Eliminates dental damage that occurs during intubation

  • Protect fragile front teeth and cosmetic veneers

  • Can be easily molded by the patient

  • Can be molded to protect fragile areas with missing teeth

  • Simple to reheat and remold as needed.

  • BPA-free and latex-free

  • Protects against costly instrument damage caused by teeth

Individualized tooth protectors have the greatest adaptability and are the most effective way of protecting the teeth. To learn more about QuickGuard, please feel free to reach out via email at or call the office directly at (914) 523-3797.


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