Safety is the top consideration for parents when the topic of sedation comes up. We understand; it’s our top priority, too! Our Mount Pleasant dental practice offers comprehensive services for kids with complicated procedures, special needs, or high levels of anxiety.
We have several tools to work with, including oral conscious sedation, IV sedation, and nitrous oxide. Sedation is different from general anesthesia, which renders the patient unconscious. Sedation is a very safe procedure that reduces the child’s anxiety and discomfort during dental treatment.
When is sedation used?
Sedation is used in several situations. Young children, or those that simply can’t keep still, can be sedated so their pediatric dentist can perform lengthy or precise procedures safely. Many children (and even adults) struggle with anxiety during dental appointments, and sedation can help them stay relaxed and calm during treatment. Also, children with special needs might use sedation to prevent spontaneous movement during a procedure.
Sedation Dentistry for Children
Of course, we use local anesthetics to numb areas in treatment, so little patients won’t feel much to begin with. Our practice uses a range of sedation options that give us flexibility to fine-tune the solution to each child. We aim to use the most conservative method that meets the needs of our patients.
Let’s take a look at the different levels of sedation at our dental practice.
Nitrous oxide is the most well-known type of dental sedation. It is simply inhaled via a mask (always combined with oxygen), and it can quickly relax most people enough that they become a silly little goose, which is why it’s known as “laughing gas”.
Nitrous oxide is very quick and effective, and produces a feeling of euphoria. The mask simply goes over the nose, meaning that the patient can breathe through their mouth. We often let kids choose a fruity flavor for the inside of the mask, encouraging them to breathe in through their nose.
Nitrous oxide sedation is painless and wears off quickly. Side effects are rare and limited to nausea, so we might ask parents to avoid meals prior to the appointment.
Oral Conscious Sedation
While nitrous oxide is very effective for a simple case of nervousness, oral sedation is effective for the very anxious, uncooperative, or special needs children that can’t control their movement for prolonged treatments. Oral conscious sedation can be delivered as a pill or, more likely, a concoction of liquid medications. It might make a patient very relaxed or drowsy, but it won’t knock them out.
With any form of sedation, We’ll ask parents to limit their child’s food or fluid intake prior to the appointment to reduce the chance of nausea. Oral sedation is very safe, though it might leave a patient “loopy” for a couple hours, so be sure to stay with your child after their procedure.
We can administer medication through an IV that will relax a child for their procedure, but don’t confuse this with general anesthesia. This can be a great choice because of the ability to adjust the medication as needed during the procedure and keep the child in a relatively deep sleep.
IV sedation is a very safe procedure — I recommend this option. Not only will kids have to worry about discomfort, they frequently won’t remember the procedure.
What about general anesthesia?
This option is usually reserved for more complex treatments that can’t be performed safely, or simply if a child is too young (under 3 years old). The patient will stay in deep sleep throughout the procedure, and it requires performing the treatment at another facility as an out-patient procedure.
General anesthesia is more intensive and requires a longer period of recovery, so it is only recommended when absolutely necessary. We favor conscious sedation whenever possible.
Communication is Key
Being nervous about a dental appointment is a common experience, especially among children. Communicating with your pediatric dental team will allow us to set up a more comfortable visit for your child and we can discuss options for sedation.
My goal is to ensure my patients receive safe, effective, and comfortable dental care.
~Dr. Randy Pagenkopf