Dental sedation is a very safe procedure for children. Here is a little about how it works, and some details about safety precautions parents can take to make the process go more smoothly.
Why has my dentist recommended sedation for my child?
Your dentist may recommend sedation for your son or daughter if they're going to undergo a long complex dental procedure, or for children who are especially young or nervous.
Dental sedation can also help children with special needs to get the treatment they need, treatment that might otherwise be very stressful for the child or even impossible.
Types of Sedation for Children
The main types of sedation dentists use for children are the same as those used for adults: nitrous oxide, intravenous sedation and oral sedation.
Nitrous oxide, frequently referred to as laughing gas, helps children remain calm during dental treatment. Nitrous oxide is delivered via a mask, and within a few minutes, the patient begins to feel relaxed and experience euphoric feelings. Following the procedure, pure oxygen is given to the patient in order to clear out any remaining nitrous oxide.
Intravenous sedation is delivered through a needle inserted into the patient's vein. Nitrous oxide is used to send the child to sleep before a needle is inserted into a vein on the back of the hand. A tube is also inserted into the patient's throat to aid breathing.
Oral sedation is taken by mouth or nose when the patient arrives for their appointment. The medicine takes about 20 minutes to kick in. Oral sedation doesn't put patients to sleep, but it will help your the child to relax.
Safety Precautions for Children’s Dental Sedation
Children tolerate sedation dental procedures best if their parents understand what will happen and prepare the child ahead of time.
Your dentist will provide you with detailed instructions on how to prepare your child ahead of the appointment, and give you instructions for how to restrict food and drink before the sedation appointment.
It is a good idea to dress your child in loose-fitting clothing that will allow dental assistants to attach monitors quickly and with minimal fuss.
When you arrive for your child's appointment you will also be asked to provide a full medical history for your child. Be sure to tell the dentist if your son or daughter is receiving any prescriptions, over-the-counter medication or herbal supplements.
Ensuring our patient's safety is paramount during dental sedation. While your child is sedated we will closely monitor their blood pressure, blood oxygen level, heart rate and temperature.
It is best if two adults accompany the child or teen home — one to drive, and the other to monitor the child's breathing. Due to some of the longer-lasting aftereffects of sedation such as loss of physical coordination, dizziness, sleepiness and nausea, going back to school or daycare on the day of the appointment is not an option.
For the first few hours following the procedure, parents should give the child soft foods only. Once the mouth has healed, your child can continue caring for their teeth as normal.