Purpose: The purpose was to describe pathologic paediatric conditions associated with airway compromise adversely affecting dental treatment with sedation and general anaesthesia. Methods: A review of available literature was completed, identifying pathologic paediatric conditions predisposing to airway compromise. Results: Airway-related deaths are uncommon, but respiratory complication represents the greatest cause of morbidity and mortality during the administration of general anaesthesia. Differences in anatomy and physiology of the paediatric and adult airway contribute to the child's predisposition to rapid development of airway compromise and respiratory failure; juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, cervical spine injury, morbid obesity, and prematurity represent only a few conditions contributing to potential airway compromise of which the paediatric clinician needs to be aware. In all cases, thorough physical examination prior to treatment is mandated to affect a positive treatment outcome. Conclusions: Successful management of children and adolescents with a compromised airway begins with identification of the problem through a detailed medical history and physical examination. Due to the likely fragile nature of many of these patients, and possibility of concomitant medical conditions affecting airway management, dental treatment needs necessitating pharmacological management are best treated in a controlled setting such as the operating room, where a patent airway can be maintained.
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