Number of toddlers sedated for dental surgery on the rise

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. -- Grayson May knows a thing or two about good dental hygiene. But a few months ago the smiley 4-year-old hit a setback.

"There was a huge hole in the back of his tooth and I thought, 'Oh my goodness, please let that be food,'" said his mother, Angie.

Unfortunately, X-rays showed Grayson needed to have surgery on six teeth.

"I was shocked, I was just shocked that they did that," Angie said. "I had never heard of that before in my life. I had never heard children actually went under sedation for dental work."

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 44 percent of 5-year-olds have had cavities. What's worse, the level of decay is so severe, many require surgery.

"We've seen kids come in at 18 months, 24 months and they have a mouthful of cavities," said Dr. Jeffrey Brownstein with West Valley Pediatric Dentistry. "In order to do these types of procedures, it really does require us to put them to sleep."

Brownstein said more kids need dental operations because parents aren't always properly informed. Among the common misconceptions, baby teeth don't require the same level of care. However, Brownstein points out, "If you leave a cavity in that develops at age 3 until their 12 years old, typically it can develop into an infection, which can spread throughout the face."

Another mistake, not visiting a dentist when the child turns 1.

"I would say the majority of kids we see in our office are between the ages of 2 and 5 and this is the first time they've come in for a dental visit and most of them already have cavities already developing," Brownstein said.

That is what happened in Angie's case.

"We had not put Grayson on our dental plan for that year because we were just never advised to do so," she said.

Grayson underwent surgery in December and Angie remembers, "At the time, it was extremely emotional. Just the hollow look on the child, on Grayson's face when he completely went limp and his eyes were open and my husband and I both were extremely taken back."

"Most of the time when we put kids to sleep, we get a lot of the parents crying," Brownstein said.

Today, Grayson's smile is brighter than ever, however, Angie told us, "It's so weird for him to open up his mouth and to see silver. That is the weirdest thing to me."

Angie is now hoping to help other parents.

"Once you get past the part of this is embarassing or what could I have done to prevent this, at that point I'm like, OK, who can I tell?" she said. 

For more information about West Valley Pediatric Dentistry, visit