Pediatric sedation dentistry is sometimes needed to help kids through treatment appointments.
We all want our kids to have the best experience possible at the dentist. After all, this is the beginning of a lifetime of taking care of their teeth and gums. Sometimes, though, a child needs a little help getting through their appointment with ease, and. sedation dentistry might be the solution.
Just as giving your child Tylenol for a fever comes with a risk, pediatric sedation dentistry also carries a risk; however, it’s a relatively safe and effective method of keeping kids calm and relaxed during dental treatment, and there are varying degrees of sedation available, with the lightest sedation carrying very little risk.
If in-office sedation for kids is a new concept to you and you’re curious to learn more, here are 5 important facts you should know.
1. Pediatric dentists follow very strict safety protocols during the use of in-office sedation and anesthesia.
Pediatric sedation may be a routine service, but there’s certainly nothing casual about how it’s used. Our dentists and dental care team follow a very strict set of safety protocols and guidelines for in-office sedation or anesthesia. We only perform conscious sedation in-office and move to a hospital setting for deeper sedation through anesthesia. Whether in the hospital or the office, we follow these guidelines based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).
Some of these AAP and AAPD safety protocols require:
- A minimum of two people with Pediatric Advanced Life Support training be present in the room during deep sedation and general anesthesia, whether in-office or at a hospital
- Anesthesia is only administered by a qualified provider, such as a medical or dental anesthesiologist, a CRN anesthetist, or a secondary oral surgeon.
- One of the two aforementioned trained individuals must be an “independent observer” whose only responsibility is to monitor vital signs and assist in a medical emergency.
If you’d like to know more about the safety protocols We Make Kids Smile follows, we’ll be more than happy to explain everything in detail prior to your child’s appointment.
2. In-office sedation comes in three forms: nitrous oxide, oral medication, and intravenous.
Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is the most commonly used form of in-office sedation. It’s inhaled through a special mask worn over your child’s nose during the treatment. Nitrous oxide has a pleasant, sweet smell to it and only takes about five minutes to kick in. Most kids feel relaxed and happy while still being fully conscious.
Oral sedatives are the second most common form of in-office sedation. This sedation medication may be taken orally or intranasally. Depending on the medication used, your child may feel lightly sedated to quite drowsy, and they may even fall asleep. Most oral sedatives take about 20 to 45 minutes to take effect.
Intravenous sedation is given through an IV injection and is most often used for more invasive treatments, like wisdom tooth removal. It’s often reserved for kids with special needs, severe dental anxiety, or very long or detailed dental treatment procedures.
3. There are about five different levels of sedation intensity, from light relaxation to deep sleep.
Within these three types of sedation are about five different levels of intensity.
The first level is light sedation. Nitrous oxide is nearly always used in this case. Light sedation is used to simply help kids feel a little happier and less stressed.
The second and third levels are mild to moderate sedation. Oral sedatives typically fall within these levels. Mild to moderate sedation helps kids feel a deeper relaxed feeling, veering more on the side of sleepiness. Some kids may even doze off during treatment or not remember what happened afterward, despite remaining conscious the entire time.
The fourth and fifth levels are deep sedation and general anesthesia. This level of sedation medication is given through an IV and helps kids fall asleep.
4. Light sedation can be a therapeutic tool to help kids conquer their dental anxiety.
A wonderful aspect of light sedation with nitrous oxide is how easy it is to use. Nitrous oxide starts working quickly but also wears off within a few minutes when pure oxygen is given. It’s extremely safe and very low risk. The fact that it can often make kids feel happy and even a little goofy also makes it an ideal tool for helping kids with dental anxiety.
By combining the use of nitrous oxide with positive reinforcement, kids can learn that visiting the dentist can be a fun experience. As they grow more confident and develop a trusting relationship with their dentist, they may no longer need the help of laughing gas.
5. Parents will be given detailed home preparation instructions if their child is undergoing deep sedation or anesthesia.
When sedation is necessary, we will give our patients’ parents detailed instructions for home prep prior to the appointment.
In the case of light to moderate sedation, there isn’t anything out of the ordinary that needs to be done. We encourage parents to feed their child a very light meal prior to their appointment and use positive language when talking with their child.
For deep sedation and general anesthesia, home prep instructions are much more detailed, and it’s important to follow them strictly. Kids shouldn’t have any solid foods or non-clear liquids after midnight before their appointment, and they should only have clear liquids up to two hours before their appointment.
We will give specific instructions to parents based on their child’s specific needs, and we’ll also remind parents that we’re only a phone call away if they have questions.
The We Make Kids Smile team is ready to answer any questions you may have about in-office sedation or pediatric anesthesia.
In-office sedation and pediatric anesthesia can prompt parents to have a lot of questions, especially if this is the first time their child has needed it. We want to assure parents that our team and doctors never tire of answering their questions or hearing their concerns. Your child’s oral health is as important to us as it is to you.
To have an in-depth discussion about pediatric sedation dentistry for your child, all you need to do is call our office (or fill out this form) to schedule a consultation with your child’s dentist. From there, we’ll be able to discuss what options are available and figure out a treatment plan that everyone approves of.