As a parent, it can be overwhelming and confusing trying to decide how to best address your child’s dental needs. Fear of the dentist is natural, and dental procedures can be difficult for many people to tolerate.

When considering more complex or anxiety-inducing procedures like a tooth extraction, or if several teeth need work at once, you might feel torn about whether or not your child should be sedated for the treatment. Let’s learn more about sedation, how it works, and whether it’s suitable for children and young tykes.

Is Sedation Safe for My Kid?

Sedation is a perfectly safe solution for children undergoing a dental procedure and is administered often in pediatric dentistry for a number of procedures. “Sedation” does not automatically mean that your child is put to sleep either.

There are many levels of conscious sedation, where your child is awake, responsive, and talking to you, but simply given something mild to help them relax. If a deeper level of sedation is needed, it is done so only with a professional medical anesthesia team involved.

At Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry, we always follow the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), when it comes to administering sedation to our young patients.

This includes monitoring your child’s vitals, safe dosing of medication according to weight, and thorough review of health history prior to administration. In addition, we involve parents in every step of the process, and ensure to obtain informed consent from them before administering sedation.

When is Sedation Recommended?

There are several scenarios where we may recommend sedation for your child, such as:

  • The child exhibits extreme anxiety and fear during dental exams
  • The child is unable to understand or cooperate for dental treatment due to young age or special health needs
  • The child is scheduled for dental work that is lengthy or involving several teeth

However, since not every patient described above is a suitable candidate for sedation, we always work with parents to assess each child to determine whether sedation is a viable option for them.

How is My Child Sedated?

As mentioned above, there are many types or levels of sedation:

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide gas, more commonly known as laughing gas, is one of the most popular methods of sedation because it is very mild. Nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless gas which, when inhaled through a mask over the nose, helps your child relax. They are awake and can still understand and respond to the dentist’s instructions. It wears off immediately after breathing oxygen for 5 minutes afterwards.

Conscious Sedation

If anxiety is more significant, nitrous oxide may not be enough. Additionally, some children may experience difficulty breathing through the nose when they need to keep their mouth wide open for the dental procedure. This is where conscious sedation comes in handy. This form of sedation is taken orally and patient remains awake, albeit in a more relaxed state.

Their vitals are monitored throughout the procedure and your child is responsive to instructions. Local anesthetic injections will still be given to numb the teeth being worked on, but the patient is typically less sensitive to this because of the sedative. Parents accompany their child in the room throughout this procedure.

Outpatient General Anesthesia

There are many instances when conscious sedation is contraindicated or not enough, such as in cases of very young age, complex medical history, acute anxiety, or extensive dental treatment needs. In these situations, it is determined by both parent and practitioner that general anesthesia, where the patient is put completely to sleep by a medical professional, is best.

General anesthesia is typically administered through an inhalant or gas (stronger than nitrous oxide), followed by an IV liquid to maintain the sedation once the patient is asleep. The patient does not require local anesthetic injections to the teeth, because they feel no pain. Large amounts of dental work can all be completed in one visit.

Will My Child Experience Side Effects After Sedation?

Your child may experience side effects similar to adults, but they usually go away within a few hours. The most common side effects include:

  • Grogginess/Sleepiness
  • Nausea
  • Lack of physical coordination

Continue to monitor your child after the procedure and notify our office if side effects persist or worsen. Our emergency line is available 24/7!

How Do I Prepare My Child for Dental Sedation?

When sedation is needed, it can be nerve-wracking for parents and children alike, especially as the day of the procedure gets closer. Here are some tips to prepare for your child’s dental sedation:

  • Follow eating and drinking instructions. There are specific instructions for eating and drinking that must be followed before the procedure, and they vary depending on many factors, such as the type of dental work and your kid’s age. Make sure that you and your child follow the given instructions.
  • Communicate with your child about the procedure but avoid scary terms like “shot” or “drill” or “they’re going to put you to sleep”. We use words and phrases like “sleepy juice,” “tooth cleaner,” and “you’re going to take a little nap and when you wake up your teeth will be shiny!”
  • Remain calm, as your child will likely pick up on your apprehension. Many parents who have had negative dental experiences assume all experiences are the same and tell their child “No one likes the dentist.” This has the potential to make communicating with your child very difficult. We will discuss the entire process with you beforehand so there will be no surprises.
  • Bring a comfort item, such as a stuffed animal or a blanket, for them to hold on to during the procedure.
  • Keep the party at a minimum. While a second adult, such as a spouse or a family member, is often helpful to have around during the visit, it’s best to leave your other young children at home to limit stimulation.

We Provide a Comfortable Atmosphere for Children

Whether we use sedation or not, our pediatric dental specialists at Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry will make every effort to ensure a comfortable experience for your little one at every visit. Our fun and kid-friendly dental office will also put your child at ease when going to the dentist, and our professional dental team will ensure peace of mind for parents with open communication. Contact us if you have any questions about pediatric sedation dentistry, or set up an appointment with us today!