Experiencing fear at the dentist’s office is something that can happen to patients of any age. Sedation dentistry is an effective means of countering that anxiety through the use of anesthesia, whether local or general. Sedation with laughing gas is the lightest form of anesthesia for both adults and children. Let’s talk about soothing anxious children…
Sedation dentistry uses one of several methods to put the child into a state of deep relaxation in order to take their minds off their fears and allow the work to take place. A professional will typically consult with the child’s parents and medical doctor to determine if sedation is appropriate, and to get more information about the extent of the fears before recommending sedation or sleep dentistry. Depending on the age and previous experience of the child, different types of sedation are recommended. Aside from localized, topical anesthetic administered to patients receiving non-sedation dental work, there are four basic types of sedation available: oral, intravenous (IV), intramuscular (IM) and nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”. Nitrous oxide is commonly administered to help older children relax during the procedure. Full sedation requires an IV or IM method that follows the administration of an oral sedative and/or laughing gas to reduce initial stress. Once in effect, a child is completely relaxed and will have little memory of the procedure. Children older than six with prior dental experience are usually eligible to receive some type of oral sedative.
Occasionally, the use of a physical restraint is necessary to prevent children from disrupting the process. For younger children, full sedation or general anesthesia may be the only successful approach since they are too young to understand the process or cooperate. In addition, since some procedures are lengthy, keeping young children still for long periods of time is difficult for everyone involved.
When using general anesthesia on children, dentists coordinate with a specialized nurse or anesthesiologist to administer the sedation and fully monitor the young patient so that the whole procedure can be safe.