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ADA looks out for dentists in work with fire protection standards

August 15, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Widely recognized as the authoritative source for information regarding dental practice and dental standards, the ADA regularly has its members’ backs in often unseen ways.

One example of this came earlier this year when ADA Science Institute and ADA Practice Institute staff worked with the National Fire Protection Association to develop rational, science-based standards — which are adopted as building codes for piping for nitrous oxide, oxygen, compressed gas and waste anesthetic gas disposal — that are designed to minimize the risk of fires in dental offices and protect patients.

Originally, the fire protection association proposed a new chapter in its codes relating specifically to dental offices, entitled “Dental Facilities,” which would have defined dental practices on the basis of what level of sedation or anesthesia is delivered.

 “This scope-creep was averted by changing the chapter title to ‘Dental Gas and Vacuum Systems,’ which is now the appropriate part of the dental facility addressed by the standards,” said Dr. Dave Preble, vice president of the ADA Practice Institute.
Additionally, thanks to input from ADA staff, the fire protection association amended the category descriptions for dental facilities to more accurately reflect the practice of dentistry and the reduced risks involved when providing only conscious sedation in the dental office, Dr. Preble said.

While the proposed chapter originally put conscious sedation in the same category as general anesthesia and deep sedation, the new chapter features three different categories for dental facilities. These new categories include dental facilities that perform deep sedation and general anesthesia associated with implant dentistry and oral surgery (the most stringent category); dental facilities that, at most, provide moderate and minimal sedation; and dental facilities that perform minimal or no sedation. By dictating piping and associated protection equipment in building codes, incorrect descriptions could have resulted in significant additional costs (up to an estimated $50,000) to dental practices, without those costs being based on a rational safety risk to patients, Dr. Preble said.

“The National Fire Protection Association was ready to make decisions about risk for patients due to anesthesia without professional advice from health care providers. The good news is that the cooperation was genuine and NFPA appeared to welcome and appreciate the input from ADA as an authority on clinical matters,” said Dr. Preble. “The ADA expert involvement has resulted in a significant savings in future building code compliance costs to the profession with no additional risk to patients.”

For more information about the ADA’s work in standards related to dentistry, visit