Pediatric sedation dentistry helps kids stay safe and comfortable during their dental treatment.

Sedation dentistry is a valuable service offered by pediatric dental practices like We Make Kids Smile. Through the use of a few different forms of sedation or anesthesia, pediatric dentists are able to help kids feel more relaxed during their appointments and provide a much safer atmosphere.

When to Choose Sedation Dentistry for Your Child

There are three main situations in which sedation dentistry can be beneficial for your child.

Reason 1: Your child has dental anxiety.

Dental anxiety is a common obstacle that kids face. Not only does anxiety leave kids feeling uncomfortable and overwhelmed, but it can also lead to safety risks if your child is squirmy or reluctant to cooperate.

Reason 2: Your child has special needs.

Kids with special needs may also have dental anxiety or struggle with trusting their pediatric dentist. On the other hand, some of our special needs patients are so excited about seeing their dentist that they can be a little overenthusiastic or talkative during their appointment.

In both situations, sedation dentistry can be a very useful tool for easing some of that excitability and ensuring your child can safely get the treatment they need.

Reason 3: Your child needs extensive treatment.

Many pediatric dentists will recommend sedation or anesthesia for kids who require very extensive dental treatment, even for kids who love visiting the dentist and sit very well during routine checkups.

Types of Sedation Used at We Make Kids Smile

There are three main categories of sedation dentistry, and we offer options for each.

Nitrous Oxide

Best known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is a mild form of sedation that’s perfect for helping kids relax during treatment.

Nitrous oxide is a sweet-smelling gas that’s inhaled through a special mask during your child’s appointment. Most kids will feel quite comfortable, happy, and sometimes a little silly. It’s the form of sedation that carries the lowest risk, and it wears off in a few minutes after pure oxygen is given.

Conscious Sedation

For kids with moderate dental anxiety or special needs, conscious sedation can be a more effective choice.

Conscious sedation relies on an oral sedative to help kids feel deeply relaxed and sleepy. IV sedation medication can also be considered a form of conscious sedation when given in a small amount. Your child will be awake but may fall asleep or otherwise be much more deeply sedated compared to nitrous oxide.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is the strongest form of sedation and involves your child completely going to sleep just as they would for surgery. This is generally performed at a local hospital for maximum safety.

We typically reserve general anesthesia for kids with severe dental phobia or kids with acute special needs who need treatment procedures that are very intense or extensive.

What to Expect During Your Child’s Appointment

Here is a brief rundown of what to expect for your child’s sedation appointment.


The most important thing to do when preparing for your child’s appointment is follow any preparation instructions given by the dentist. This is especially important if your child will be going under general anesthesia.

You’ll want to ensure they don’t eat any solid foods or drinks other than water after midnight on the day before the appointment. The morning of, your child can consume water and clear liquids up to two hours before their appointment.

You should also give your child an age-appropriate explanation of what their appointment will be like. Use very positive language and refrain from using words that may suggest there’s something to worry about.

We also encourage parents to show up a bit early for their child’s appointment so there’s plenty of time to fill out or update medical history and consent forms.


Generally speaking, you’ll be waiting either in our office waiting room or the hospital waiting room during your child’s procedure. This ensures everyone is safe and the treatment room isn’t crowded. We follow extremely strict safety guidelines, so it’s crucial there are no distractions while our team is monitoring your child and assisting the dentist.

Don’t forget to bring along a book or pop in your earbuds to listen to something relaxing while you wait!


Once your child’s treatment is finished, you’ll be able to be there while they recover. If your child received strong sedation, they may be pretty groggy, sleepy, or grumpy when they wake up. Once you’re given the all-clear, you’ll be able to take your child home, where you’ll keep an eye on them as they recover.

Sedation Side Effects and Risks for Kids

Pediatric sedation dentistry is safe with low complication rates, but it’s normal for kids to experience some minor side effects. These side effects are usually short term and often occur within six to eight hours.

Common Short-Term Side Effects

The most common side effect is sleepiness. After heavy oral sedation or general anesthesia, most kids will be pretty tired and may fall asleep on the car ride home.

Kids may experience dizziness, confusion, or even be a little grumpy. Nausea and vomiting are also normal reactions after heavy sedation. Your child’s pediatric dentist may even offer an anti-nausea medication for procedures involving general anesthesia.

Potential Risks and Long-Term Side Effects

Your child’s sedation dentistry procedure is always done in a very safe and controlled setting; however, the human body isn’t always 100% predictable in how it will react to something like sedation.

Sensitive kids may experience the typical short-term side effects of sedation for up to 24 hours before they feel completely normal again. Others may return to feeling normal but need extra naps or longer sleep for a couple of days after their procedure.

There are also some risks to consider and discuss with your child’s pediatric dentist. General anesthesia for a duration of three hours or more can negatively impact brain development in children under the age of 3. This is very rare, especially considering the majority of sedation dentistry procedures will take well under three hours to perform.

When to Call the Dentist

Some red flags to be aware of include extreme lethargy, prolonged nausea or vomiting, prolonged loss of appetite, and a persistent headache.

The We Make Kids Smile dental team wants to remind parents that they’re encouraged to contact their child’s dentist if they suspect anything out of the ordinary is going on. A quick call to our office will allow us to get your child help if needed or give you some peace of mind that everything is OK.

Ready to book your child’s dental appointment?

If you have more questions or you’re ready to schedule your child’s sedation dentistry appointment, call your closest We Make Kids Smile office located in either Waldorf or Prince Frederick.

For booking appointments outside of business hours, you can either leave us a message on our voicemail or simply fill out this easy online form.

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3460 Old Washington Rd, #200
Waldorf, MD 20602

Prince Frederick

Prince Frederick

Prince Frederick

540 Main Street
Prince Frederick, MD 20678


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