Conscious Sedation Explained

Contrary to popular belief, not all types of sedation — to put it simply — put patients to sleep. Because many young children are not able to sit still enough when awake, conscious sedation offers a sedative state where your child will be in a deep state of relaxation while also remaining awake. This form of sedation dentistry is relatively safe since your child can maintain a clean airway, breathe on their own, and respond to repeated verbal stimulation such as someone calling their name.

How do pediatric dentists achieve conscious sedation?

Normally, dentists use drugs to deliver mild sedation. Your child will receive a cocktail of oral medications to take an hour or so before the procedure starts. Dentists may also crush the pills under your child’s tongue or provide a medicated lollipop. Another way to achieve conscious sedation is through nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as “laughing gas.” This is a non-invasive approach that’s administered via a small breathing mask. Your pediatric dentist may choose to use both of these methods to ensure your child is sufficiently “numbed up” enough to comfortably undergo a dental procedure. Success when using conscious sedation techniques requires patience, skill, time, and, in many cases, your child’s cooperation.

Why would a dentist recommend sedation?

Sedation dentistry in children is different from that of adults. A dentist would recommend sedation if the success of a dental procedure depends on your child lying perfectly still, if the procedure will take some time, if the noises of dental tools are loud and continuous enough to scare younger kids, or if it will help facilitate procedures in kids with special needs or behavioral disorders, where it’s often difficult to explain the importance of dental care. Because of this, general anesthesia can increase the likelihood of a dental procedure going smoothly, ensuring success the first time around.

Sedation may be necessary, for example, if a three-year-old requires several root canals for badly decayed premolars. Dr. Jeff would recommend sedation because of the amount of work involved and the time required for your little one to remain still. But if the cavities are less advanced, then fluoride treatments, which don’t require sedation, would be a more preferable treatment option to strengthen the enamel and slow down decay. Our goal here is to always make sure your child is safe and comfortable during all dental procedures.

What You Can Do During Pediatric Sedation

Remember the expression, “Happy mom, happy child”? Well, this statement is even truer when it comes to dental procedures that require sedation dentistry. As a parent, it can prove difficult to watch your child undergo sedation, particularly when your child has machines attached to monitor their heart rate (pulse) and oxygen levels. Kids can often sense this apprehension, so to make it easier on them, it’s important that you remain as calm and encouraging as possible. You can hold your child’s hand to remind them of your presence. Choose some of your child’s favorite stories and read to them. Your child may remain quiet during the procedure or they may continue to talk and interact with others. Even if you just talk or whisper to your child about nothing in particular, the sound of your voice alone can often provide reassurance.

How is the experience for your child?

Children coming out of sedation react in different ways. One child may cry, be fussy, or confused, while another may feel nauseous and even vomit. All these symptoms are normal and will go away as the sedation medication wears off. Your child’s nose, mouth, and throat may also remain numb for up to two hours after the procedure. Soreness in the gums will vary depending on the dental procedure, with root canals taking the longest to heal. Allow your child to only eat soft foods for the first few hours after sedation. This way, they’ll be less likely to bite their tongue or the inside of the mouth. We recommend that both of you take it easy for the rest of the day.

Pediatric Sedation Dentistry

Using general anesthesia or sedation to treat dental issues in kids is a relatively safe procedure performed to ensure the success of procedures, like fillings, root canals, or even the extraction of badly decayed teeth, the first time around. Dr. Jeff will only use sedation methods in situations where your child requires a lot of dental work or the noises in the room may be scary for them. He may also recommend sedation if a procedure requires your child to lie perfectly still and this proves difficult because of special needs or behavioral disorders. Feel free to share any concerns you may have about sedation dentistry with us on Facebook. Our staff also likes to know of any ways we can support you and your child during dental procedures, so please tell us about your little one’s likes, dislikes, concerns, and needs when you schedule an appointment with us. We look forward to taking care of your child’s smile.