Certain procedures require dental sedation, for the purpose of keeping a child calm and as comfortable as possible during their dental visit. There are multiple types of sedation, one of which may be recommended or required if a child needs to undergo a lengthy procedure or multiple complex procedures within one visit. Your child may also require or be more comfortable with dental sedation if he or she has special needs, is extremely fearful of dental care, or experiences great difficulty sitting still. As pediatric professionals, the decision to recommend or require oral conscious sedation for a child’s dental care is always dictated by what is most advantageous for the child, not out of convenience for the dentist or parent/caregiver. Dental sedation is considered very low risk, and as a practice, our goal is to care for your child’s dental needs in the least invasive and safest manner possible.
What Exactly Is Dental Sedation?
Dental sedation may be advised or required for multiple reasons and is usually performed at the pediatric dentist’s office before your child’s dental procedure(s). Sedation is the use of one of the multiple forms of mild sedative drugs for calming purposes or anxiety relief while dental procedures are being performed. Sedation may also be necessary and given by the dentist when a child displays a high “gag reflex,” when the child’s safety may be jeopardized without a sedative, or when too many procedures must be done at once for the child to handle without sedation. Oftentimes oral conscious sedation is used on very young children who display extreme dental decay or are unable to cooperate in the typical manner. Pediatric dentists will most commonly utilize oral conscious sedation to gain cooperation from children to eliminate disruptive behavior and to prevent patients from accidentally causing injury to themselves during a dental procedure. This sedative drug is used often in conjunction with nitrous oxide and oxygen analgesia.
Dental sedative medication does not control or decrease pain. A different medication is administered (injected) to numb the mouth and reduce discomfort during procedures, after the sedative is given. The effects of sedation may persist up to 6 hours after a procedure, so the pediatric dentist will always give parents/caregivers special instructions regarding pre and post-procedure care for the child.
Types Of Dental Sedation
There multiple components to dental sedation and more than one type. Multiple medications may be used in conjunction with each other, depending on a child’s particular situation and needs. The type of sedation best suited for a child depends on each individual situation and the extent and complexity of the dental work being performed. Types of dental sedation include:
Nitrous Oxide/Oxygen Analgesia—Nitrous oxide and oxygen analgesia is also known as “laughing gas” or “happy air.” It smells good and its effects are completely removed five minutes after withdrawal. Many children find it helpful in managing dental anxiety. It provides a sensation of wellbeing.
Conscious Sedation—Sometimes a sedative drug is used to relax a child who does not respond to other behavior management techniques. Often this is an extremely young child who has extensive decay and who is unable to cooperate in the usual manner. This drug is administered orally and may be used in conjunction with nitrous oxide and oxygen analgesia. Sedations are not performed without parents being further informed and obtaining their consent for this procedure.
Hospital Dentistry or IV Disassociative Sedation—For some children with medical complications, extensive decay at a very young age, or instances when conscious sedation is ineffective, dental treatment can be accomplished in a hospital operating room under general anesthesia or by IV sedation in the dental office. Additional information is provided to parents regarding this information.
Benefits Of Dental Sedation Outweigh The Risks
Oral conscious sedation as well as IV sedations are considered low risk and safe. A parent or caregiver, however, should always make an informed decision when consenting to the administration of dental medications or procedures being performed on their child. The risks of oral conscious sedation, although extremely unlikely, will be explained prior to a child’s procedure. The parent/caregiver must then sign a form stating that he or she understands the risks of sedation and is consenting to this medication being administered before the procedure(s).
The benefits of dental sedation include reduction of anxiety, elimination of disruptive behavior, cooperation for dental treatment, prevention of self-injury during a dental procedure, and removal of the dental disease process as to prevent further dental or medical complications.