Sedation Dentistry for Children

In contrast to general anesthesia (which renders the child unconscious), dental sedation is only intended to reduce the child’s anxiety and discomfort during dental visits.  In some cases, the child may become drowsy or less active while sedated, but this will quickly desist after the procedure is completed.

When is sedation used?

Sedation is used in several circumstances.  Firstly, very young children are often unable keep still for long enough for pediatric dentist to perform high-precision procedures safely. Sedation makes the visit less stressful for both children and adults and vastly reduces the risk of injury.  Secondly, some children struggle to manage anxiety during dental appointments.  Sedation helps them to relax, cope, and feel happier about treatment.  Thirdly, sedation is particularly useful for children with special needs. It prevents spontaneous movement, and guides cooperative behavior.

What are the most common types of sedation?

Most pediatric dentists have several sedation options available, and each one comes with its own particular benefits.  The dentist will assess the medical history of the child, the expected duration of the procedure, and the child’s comfort level before recommending a method of sedation.

Conscious sedation allows children to continually communicate, follow instructions, and cooperate during the entire procedure.  The major methods of conscious sedation are described below:

Nitrous oxide - The pediatric dentist may recommend nitrous oxide (more commonly known as “laughing gas”) for children who exhibit particular signs of nervousness or anxiety.  Nitrous oxide is delivered via a mask, which is placed over the child’s nose.  Nitrous oxide is always combined with oxygen – meaning that the child can comfortably breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Laughing gas relaxes children extremely quickly, and can produce happy, euphoric behavior.  It is also quick acting, painless to deliver, and wears off within a matter of minutes.  Before removing the mask completely, the pediatric dentist delivers regular oxygen for several minutes, to ensure the nitrous oxide is eliminated from the child’s body.  On rare occasions, nitrous oxide may cause nausea. For this reason, most pediatric dentists suggest minimal food intake prior to the appointment.

Oral sedation - Children who are uncooperative, particularly anxious, or unable to control their muscles for prolonged periods, may be offered an oral sedative.  Oral sedatives come in many different forms (usually tablets, pills, and liquids), and may make the child feel drowsy.  If oral sedatives are to be used, the pediatric dentist may require parents to prepare the child before the appointment.  Some common preparatory measures may include: limiting food and fluid intake prior to the appointment, having the child wear comfortable clothing to the appointment, and preparing to stay with the child for several hours after the appointment.  Oral sedatives rarely produce serious side effects – nausea is among the most common.

Other forms of conscious sedation - Other less common ways to administer sedatives include intravenous (IV sedation), the use of suppositories, and even the use of a nasal spray.  In most cases, the method of delivery may change, but the chemical nature of the sedative remains the same.

What about general anesthetic?

General anesthetic (which puts the child in a deep sleep), is rarely used in dental work unless:

  • A procedure cannot otherwise be performed safely.
  • The child has a condition which limits cooperation or the ability to follow instructions.
  • The child needs a lengthy treatment.
  • The child needs more complex dental treatment or oral surgery.

General anesthetic requires more intensive preparation before the treatment and a longer period of recovery after the treatment.  Conscious sedation is usually favored wherever possible.

If you have questions or concerns about sedation techniques, please contact your pediatric dentist.

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Testimonials

Thank you for giving me the best dental visit experience I have ever had in my entire life!

From the time I walked in to the office and the time I walked out, it was first class! Actually, that is an understatement.

This was my first appointment and I had my teeth cleaned, fluoride application, x-rays, and a test for oral cancer as I did smoke in the past. It was with great relief that not only did I pass the oral cancer test, but my teeth and gums received an A+ from Jennifer, the girl who cleaned my teeth.
The x-rays were very comfortable in my mouth. Lightweight and with digital imagery.

The office even has a flat tv screen by my chair with remote in case I wanted to watch tv while getting my teeth cleaned.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is instead of dreading my next dental visit, I am actually looking forward to it!

Tricia Kelly

I wanted to take a moment and share the treatment that my FAMILY has received from Emerald Coast Dentistry. We have been treated with exceptional professionalism, kindness and competency for every dental need we have required. From a son who started his dental requirements at 5 years old; filled with fear, to a father and mother with challenging schedules. Emerald Coast Dentistry has taken the time to truely get to know the invidual needs of our family and actually exceeds expectations for every visit. How often do you hear those words from a long term customer. Imagine, exceeding expectations for over 5 years under challenging circumstances. As a family, we feel very fortunate to be patients of Dr. Erin Sutton and her exceptional staff!

Sincerely, Scott, Beth, and Eric Brubaker

This was my first visit to Emerald Coast Dentistry and I was treated like one of the family. Doctors Sutton and Hills were extremely nice and patient with me and seemed concerned about my past dental problems. They never seemed to be in a hurry and I felt very confident in their treatment and proposed dental plan. I am very thankful I found them.

Margie Hughes

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