Sedation dentistry refers to the use of sedatives during dental treatment. Sedation is most commonly used during extensive procedures, for patients with dental phobia, young patients, or patients with a strong gag reflex. There are different types of sedation, including nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), oral sedation and general anesthesia. Sedation is endorsed by the American Dental Association and is an effective way to make many patients comfortable during their dental visit. Our goal as a pediatric office is to provide a positive experience for your child and oftentimes appropriate sedation with behavior control techniques help us provide this positive experience for your child. Before undergoing a sedation procedure, it is important to tell your pediatric dentist about any medications or medical treatments your child is receiving. Before administering any sedatives or anesthetic, your pediatric dentist will talk to you about the different options available and what is appropriate depending on your child’s behavior and dental needs. Dr. Sheu and her staff will discuss important pre and post-appointment instructions that ensures that your child has a safe experience. We schedule any patient that needs sedation in the morning as most procedures require that the child does not have any food prior to the appointment.
“Laughing Gas” or Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, is often used as a conscious sedative during a dental visit. The gas is administered with a mixture of oxygen and has a calming effect that helps phobic or anxious patients relax during their dental treatment. The gas is administered through a nose hood which requires the child to be willing to breathe through his/her nose. Because it is a mild sedative, patients are still conscious and can talk to their pediatric dentist during their visit. After treatment, the nitrous is turned off and oxygen is administered for five to ten minutes to help remove any remaining nitrous oxide from the patient’s system. Nitrous oxide rarely has side effects, although some patients may experience minor nausea with a full stomach. We recommend no food for 2 hours prior to the appointment.
Oral sedation is a moderate sedation technique that combines an oral medication administered in office by Dr. Sheu and nitrous oxide. This method still allows your child to be conscious but very drowsy. This is a good option for children over 3 years old that are moderately nervous. Each child’s medication is dosed according to weight and administered orally. There is a 45 minute waiting period for the oral medication to take effect. Nitrous oxide is added when the patient is transferred to the chair for treatment. A parent will need to supervise the child for the remainder of the day as the child is usually drowsy and has a poor sense of balance. This sedation technique is appropriate for small to medium amount of restorative needs.
We may recommend the use of general anesthesia for children who require extensive dental treatment and are extremely fearful, anxious or uncooperative, or for young children who do not understand how to cooperate in a dental situation.
While there is some risk associated with general anesthesia, our skilled team is trained to safely and effectively administer and monitor the level of anesthesia administered. We take extra precautions to protect your child throughout their treatment. Our anesthesia staff has completed additional advanced training specifically for the administration/monitoring of anesthesia during dental procedures.
Once your child is awake and stable, we will discharge him/her. Your child will likely be very tired following the procedure and we will advise you to allow him/her to rest with minimal activity for at least 24 hours. We will also provide you with post-operative instructions and dietary recommendations for you to follow.
Before we administer general anesthesia to your child, we will discuss all of the benefits and risks associated, and why we recommend it for your child.
For more information about general anesthesia for dentistry: www.adsahome.org.