Sedation dentistry is a major aspect of adult dental care, but did you know it’s also available for kids? New medications have made sedation dentistry safer than ever for children. Alleviating anxiety with sedation dentistry offers many benefits – especially in children who fear the dentist or have trouble sitting still. And while it may not be needed for every child, in many cases sedation dentistry can safely help children get the dental care they need.
What is Conscious Sedation?
Conscious sedation dentistry involves the use of sedatives or nitrous oxide to put the patient in a relaxed state without losing consciousness. Unlike general anesthesia, the patient is awake during a procedure with conscious sedation. The patient can be in a state of minimal, moderate, or deep sedation -depending on their unique needs and the circumstances surrounding the procedure. Conscious sedation does not generally impact a patient’s response to pain, so your child will still need a local anesthetic like Novocaine. However, sedation can allow for the successful injection of the anesthetic if your child suffers from a fear of needles.
When is Sedation Dentistry Appropriate for Children?
It is estimated that up to 250,000 pediatric dental sedations are performed each year in the United States.
Sedation dentistry can be useful for children when they:
- Have fear or anxiety about going to the dentist
- Are unable to cooperate
- Have a fear of needles
- Need to have multiple cavities filled or are undergoing longer procedures like extractions
- Have special needs and may experience uneasiness at the dentist or have trouble remaining still
What are the Sedation Options for Children?
Every dentist offers different sedation options, so consult your dentist to find out what choices are available for your child. Your dentist will help you make the right selection based on your child’s needs and the care that he or she requires.
- Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous oxide is a gas that is blended with oxygen and inhaled through the nose to achieve a state of relaxation. Sometimes referred to as laughing gas, this old standard has seen a resurgence in use in both the dental and medical communities because of its safety and effectiveness. Nitrous oxide is often an ideal solution in cases of mild apprehension where light sedation is needed. The patient remains fully aware and able to cooperate with the dentist in a calm and relaxed state.
- Oral Sedation
In cases where a higher level of sedation is needed, many pediatric dentists opt for oral sedatives in liquid form. Two of the most popular oral sedatives in pediatric dentistry are Midazolam and Hydroxyzine, both of which are considered safe for children by the medical community.
- Intravenous Sedation
When a deeper conscious sedation is needed, your dentist may recommend intravenous sedation. It typically involves using the same drugs preferred for oral sedation. Since intravenous sedation requires a needle, it is often used in conjunction with nitrous oxide for more complicated procedures.
Is Sedation Dentistry Safe for Children?
New drugs have made sedation dentistry safer than ever and an excellent option for most children. While there can always be side effects from sedatives, they are considered far safer than general anesthesia.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Dental Association have worked together to develop high standards for the use of sedation dentistry. Your dentist is required to receive specialized training in order to administer sedation and must be prepared for a medical emergency. Your child’s vital signs will be monitored by your dentist throughout the entire course of treatment.
Sedation Dentistry: What to Expect
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry makes the following recommendations to prepare for a visit:
- Let the dentist’s office know about your child’s medical history, medications (including herbal and over-the-counter medicines), and any recent illnesses.
- Restrict food and liquids according to your dentist’s instructions.
- A parent or guardian should expect to stay with your child during the visit and also closely monitor him or her after the appointment. Parents should not plan to send the child to school the following day.
Is Sedation Dentistry Right for My Child?
In most cases, routine dental care for children can be completed without sedation. Your pediatric dentist has a range of tools in her toolbox to calm mildly fearful children and make their visits to the dentist pleasant and productive experiences. However, when children are acutely nervous or unable to cooperate, or they need a longer, more complicated or more painful procedure, sedation is an important option. If anxiety or behavioral issues stand in the way of your child’s oral health, talk to your dentist about sedation dentistry today. Make 2017 a year of happy, healthy smiles.