Children who are very young, experience high levels of anxiety, or have special needs sometimes require some level of sedation to allow their pediatric dentist to perform dental treatment safely and optimally. There are many safe and effective drugs and sedation methods available today that can help relax your child and make for a good environment for a safe procedure.
Conscious sedation is an option for children who are older (two years and above) and are mildly apprehensive. Your dentist can recommend which type of conscious sedation may be best for your child. Conscious sedation may be given in several ways, including:
- Inhaling a gas
- Swallowing medicine in the form of a syrup or a pill
- Receiving medicine though a shot (injection)
- Receiving medicine through a vein (intravenously)
Deep sedation is sometimes necessary for children that are unable, by either age or maturity level, to cooperate during dental treatment. Our anesthesiologist, Dr. David Schultz, monitors the sedated child in our surgical suite with several high tech devices. These are the very same monitors that he uses at Halifax Hospital.
Sedation dentistry is most helpful for:
- Children who require major treatment
- Very anxious children
- Children who've had traumatic dental experiences (sound and smell aversion)
- Children with a strong gag reflex
- Children who are medically compromised or have special needs
Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)
For the safety of your child and in order to provide high quality dental care, it is important that they remain calm and still during dental treatment to prevent injury to themselves or the dental staff. For children who are afraid, uncooperative, or too young to understand dental treatment, nitrous oxide/oxygen for analgesia may be the best option to help your child relax.
Nitrous oxide is very safe, because the child remains awake, responsive and breathes without assistance. They are also given much more oxygen than what we normally breathe in the air, so there is a wide margin for safety.
After the treatment, pure oxygen is given to the patient to clear out any remaining nitrous oxide. Once the nitrous oxide is turned off, it only takes seconds for the gas to completely leave the body.
Sometimes, nitrous oxide is not sufficient to offset the level of anxiety or completely meet the needs of a patient. Oral medication is an alternative that will help a child be more relaxed.
Sedative medications are usually either tablets or liquid and are taken orally. It may be a single medication or a combination. This type of sedative medication is usually given before the treatment begins - usually about 45 minutes before the treatment begins. This type of sedation can cause drowsiness that may last a few hours.
Intravenous (IV) Sedation
When nitrous oxide or conscious oral sedation are not adequate to place the child in a comfortable state for the competition of their dental procedure, it may be necessary to use IV sedation in order to prevent any psychological or emotional trauma to the pediatric patient.
This type of sedation is very safe and allows all dental work necessary to be done in one visit. If radiographs (X-rays) were not taken during the initial exam due to fear or uncooperative behavior, they can be taken while your child is sleeping, revealing possible cavities, which will be restored during the same procedure.
Unlike nitrous oxide or conscious oral sedation, where the dentist both monitors the patien's vital signs and completes the dental work, during IV Sedation two doctors now divide those jobs. Our anesthesiologist, Dr. David Schultz, monitors your child in our surgical suite with several high tech devices; the very same monitors that he uses at Halifax Hospital.
As always, we encourage parents to ask us any questions they may have about these different sedation methods prior to treatment. We will work together to find the best solution for your child.