When Should Sedation Be Used?

Several circumstances call for the use of sedation to allow for the best course of treatment for our patients, especially for younger children who find it hard to sit still for long periods. Dental treatments take some time, and if a child can not sit still for the duration of our highly-precision procedures, then sedation is suggested to ensure their safety. Sedation eases the stress of a dental visit for both children as well as adults and significantly reduces the potential of injury. Does your child experience anxiety, especially during dental appointments? With sedation, they will be able to feel more relaxed about their treatment. Dental visits are a life long journey and you do not want your child to avoid going due to anxiety. We help to reduce their stress to ensure they have a pleasant experience and will continue to want to come for their check-ups and any future treatments. Sedation is also a great option for children who have special needs. Sedation helps to limit unexpected movements, prevents injuries, and elicits cooperative behavior.

Common Types of Sedation

There are several different sedation options available, and your doctor will discuss with you which one they believe will provide the best benefit for your child. After reviewing your child’s medical history, type of treatment required, duration of the procedure, as well as your child’s comfort or anxiety level, our dentist will be able to recommend the best method of sedation.
The benefit of conscious sedation is that your child will still be able to communicate with us the entire time and will be able to follow the instructions given to them during the procedure. The most common methods of conscious sedation are:

Nitrous Oxide (aka “laughing gas”)– Usually recommend for children exhibiting certain signs of anxiety. This form of sedation helps to relax children very quickly, often making them feel happy, even euphoric in some cases. It is painless to deliver and the effects will wear off within minutes of the mask being removed. Your dentist will deliver regular oxygen through the mask as well as the laughing gas during the procedure to make sure they can breathe easily during treatment. For several minutes before the mask is removed, the gas is turned off and pure oxygen is delivered through the mask to ensure all the nitrous oxide is removed from your child’s body before they are released from our care. In very rare cases, your child may experience some nausea from the nitrous oxide so we recommend limiting the amount of food your child eats before their appointment to reduce this side effect.

Oral Sedation – These come in a variety of methods, including tablets, pills, and even liquids. These sedatives will make your child feel drowsy and are usually only required for children who may be more uncooperative, have high anxiety, or can not control their body’s movements for long periods of time. These types of sedatives are usually taken before their appointment, to allow time for them to take effect. Your pediatric dentist may also recommend limiting the amount of fluid and food your child has before their appointment to avoid nausea. Have them wear comfortable clothes and plan to stay for a while after the appointment to make sure your child is alert and feeling well before leaving.

Other Forms – Although less common than the other methods listed, on occassion these forms of conscious sedation are used:

  • Intravenous (IV sedation)
  • Suppositories
  • Nasal spray

General Anesthesia

This form of sedation is rarely used for pediatric dentistry. Although there are some certain situations that may require general anesthesia, such as if the procedure can not be performed safely any other way, or if the child has special needs that may limit their ability to cooperate during a procedure. Other times it may be due to the length of a procedure such as with oral surgery or other complex treatments. Although general anesthesia has its place, conscious sedation is still the preferred method when possible.

If you have questions or concerns about any of these sedation techniques or what you can do to help prepare your child for their treatment, please contact our office today.