Kids' Health

Should Your Children Get Dental Sedation?

The Importance of Sedation Dentistry

The goal of sedation dentistry is to help patients feel comfortable and calm during their treatments. Although appointment anxieties affect patients of all ages, children are especially vulnerable to feelings of fear and discomfort. Sedation and anesthesia help children cope with the sensations and experience of dental treatments. Consequently, dental sedation is particularly valuable for the youngest patients.

Many children (and adults) experience some level of dental phobia. It’s why so many adults skip their regular dental checkups and avoid necessary dental procedures. However, it’s very important that all patients, regardless of age, visit their dentist every six months for a routine examination. These appointments are crucial for children since the development of their teeth must be monitored closely.

If a child is terrified of the dentist, then getting them to their appointments quickly becomes a nightmare scenario. Dental sedation is necessary in these situations, as it relaxes frightened children. Furthermore, sedation can help form positive dental associations. Every time your child visits the dentist, they have a slightly more positive experience. Eventually, they may stop fearing their appointments altogether.

Additionally, sedation dentistry helps children stay still for the duration of the dental procedure. As every parent knows, children are prone to fidgeting and often struggle to sit still for extended periods of time. It’s not uncommon for appointments to last 30 minutes or more. That can feel like an eternity for children. They’re likely to squirm, which prevents dentists and hygienists from working efficiently and effectively.

Nervous children are even more likely to fidget and squirm. Dental sedation is calming, making it easier for children to remain still without hindering the dental staff.

What is pediatric sedation dentistry?

Pediatric sedation dentistry is simply dental sedation for children. There are three main types of mild sedatives used to manage a child’s anxiety or restlessness during their procedure: nitrous oxide, oral sedatives, and IV sedation.

Dental sedation is very useful for children who are afraid of the dentist or find it difficult to sit still. Your pediatric dentist may also recommend sedation dentistry if your child has a strong gag reflex or special needs.

Sedation dentistry is also used for longer and more complex dental appointments. As we mentioned, children struggle to remain still for long periods of time. If they require multiple or time-consuming treatments, dental sedation will help prevent fidgeting for the entirety of a long appointment. In turn, this contributes to their overall oral health. It’s crucial that dentists and specialists are able to do their jobs effectively, ensuring the long-term health of your child.

Although dental sedation is an excellent tool for calming anxious children, it does not control pain or discomfort. As a result, the dentist also uses an injection to numb the area and keep it pain-free during the procedure.

How safe is dental sedation for children?

Dental sedation for children is perfectly safe. In most cases, children are given a light to mild sedative that makes them feel relaxed and comfortable. Even deep sedation, which is required for certain procedures, is safe for children.

Nonetheless, it’s important to review your child’s health history with the pediatric dentist prior to the procedure. Many considerations go into choosing the best sedative option for each treatment. Not every young patient is a good candidate for a specific type of sedative.

Nitrous oxide is usually considered the safest form of dental sedation. Other types, like IV sedation or general anesthesia, have a higher risk of complications and side effects. Consequently, your dentist will want to discuss your child’s history at length before recommending one of these sedatives. The more informed you are, the better you’ll feel.

Furthermore, the procedure should take place at a dental sedation clinic. Your child’s dentist needs to be properly trained and certified in dental sedation. An anesthesia expert should also be present during the procedure.

The Different Types of Sedation Methods for Children

Nitrous Oxide

Also known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is a very safe, mild sedative. The gas is mixed with oxygen and administered through a mask. Your child will feel relaxed and lightheaded without falling asleep. It takes about 5 minutes for the sedation to take effect.

Oral Sedatives

An oral sedative provides mild-to-moderate sedation. Your child will feel calm, relaxed, and a little drowsy. If they do fall asleep, they are easy to wake. It’s common for children to not remember anything about the procedure. These medicines usually begin to work within 20 minutes.

IV Sedation

Intravenous (IV) sedation is used for procedures that require heavy levels of sedation. The IV sedative is administered directly into the bloodstream via a needle in your child’s arm. Children fall asleep as they enter a deep state of sedation. An anesthesiologist must be present to monitor their vital signs.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is less common. Your child will be completely (and peacefully) asleep and pain-free. It must be administered at a dental sedation clinic by specifically trained anesthesia professionals like dentist anesthesiologists or medical anesthesiologists.

What are the advantages of dental sedation for children?

  • Dental sedation helps your child relax.

    Dental phobia is a real challenge for many children (and their parents). With dental sedation, your child is able to calm down and relax during their appointment. Their fear and anxieties are quietened, which makes the whole process of going to the dentist far less stressful.

  • Dental sedation helps your child stay still.

    Whether it’s nervous fidgeting, normal restlessness, or a strong gag reflex, dental sedation helps your child stay still and calm during their procedure. Sedation helps get rid of the gag reflex and unfortunate movements that complicate treatments.

  • Dental sedation ensures better oral care.

    Your child’s trips to the dentist are very important for their oral health. If your child is anxious and restless, it can make their treatments slower and less efficient. When a child remains still, it allows the dentist to work quickly and precisely, ensuring the best results.

  • Dental sedation creates positive experiences.

    Dental sedation can help alleviate a child’s dental phobia. Positive experiences at the dental clinic demonstrate that there really is nothing to fear. Sedatives create a calm, comfortable, and relaxing environment for children.

Related: How to Handle Dental Emergencies for Your Children

Dental Sedation for Children

Dental sedation is safe, effective, and hugely beneficial for children. After all, it helps them remain calm and comfortable while visiting a dental clinic. Over time, it can reduce dental phobia and make regular trips to the dentist more enjoyable for the whole family. When your child is relaxed, it makes it easier for dentists to provide outstanding dental care.

If your dentist recommends dental sedation for your child, there’s nothing to fear. These sedatives are safe for children and help ensure a positive experience at the dentist.


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