Sedation Dentistry for Children

Dental sedation is commonly used in dental procedures for children to reduce discomfort and anxiety during their visit. It does not make the child unconscious like general anesthesia, but its use makes them drowsy or less active during the procedure. Its effects quickly wear off once the procedure is complete.

What kinds of cases is sedation used for?

Pediatric dentists may choose to use sedation for several reasons. Sedation is commonly used when treating young children who are unable to keep still for the duration of high-precision procedures. Moving around while the dentist is working can result in injury, so for the child’s safety, dental sedation can be utilized.

Sedation can also be used to put children with dental anxiety at ease during their visit. Sedation can help children cope, relax, and even feel happier during treatment.

Dentists find sedation particularly helpful when treating children with special needs who struggle with spontaneous movement and uncooperative behavior.

The most common types of sedation

Conscious sedation is a special kind of sedation that allows the child to communicate, cooperate, and follow instructions during the entire procedure. There are many types of sedation methods that a pediatric dentist may offer, and each one has its own particular benefits.

The dentist will choose one method over another depending on the child’s medical history, the expected duration of the procedure, and the child’s comfort level.

The major methods of conscious sedation are:

Nitrous oxide

Also known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide may be offered to children who are particularly nervous and anxious. It is delivered to the child via a mask placed over their nose. Oxygen is combined with nitrous oxide to ensure that the patient can easily breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Regular oxygen is delivered for several minutes before the mask is taken off to ensure that the nitrous oxide is fully eliminated from the body.

Nitrous oxide is fast-acting, painless, and wears off in a matter of minutes. Its use can make the child feel happy or even euphoric during and after the procedure. Parents are recommended to limit their child’s food and fluid intake before the appointment as nausea is a side effect of nitrous oxide, though rare.

Oral sedationThis form of sedation comes in many different forms, primarily pills, tablets, and liquids. This method may be offered to children who are especially uncooperative, very anxious, or unable to control their muscles for long periods of time. Oral sedation will make the child feel drowsy and calm for the procedure’s duration.

If oral sedation is chosen, parents may have to prepare the child beforehand by limiting their fluid and food intake before the appointment. There are rarely any side effects associated with oral sedation, but the most common is nausea.

Other forms of conscious sedation

These include suppositories, IV sedation, and the use of nasal sprays. These forms are much less common but are used in select cases.

Whenever sedation is used, parents should dress the child in comfortable clothing and prepare to be with the child for several hours after the appointment. Although the method of delivery of conscious sedation may change, the chemical nature of the sedative always remains the same.

When is general anesthetic used?

A general anesthetic is a form of anesthesia that puts the child into a deep sleep before and during a procedure. It is rarely used in dental work, but may be used if:

  • The child needs lengthy treatment.

  • The child has a condition that prevents their cooperation or ability to follow instructions.

  • The procedure cannot otherwise be performed safely.

  • The child needs more complex oral surgery or dental treatment.

Conscious sedation is often favored over general sedation as general sedation requires more intensive preparation and a longer recovery time.

To express any questions or concerns about sedation techniques, please contact us at Brooklyn Dentist.


Contact Us

We encourage you to contact us whenever you have an interest in or concern about any of the procedures or services that we offer.