Dental sedation, also referred to as sedation dentistry or sleep dentistry, refers to patients receiving medications or general anesthesia to promote relaxation and ensure they don’t feel pain. Levels of dental sedation range from minimal and moderate sedation where patients are relaxed but fully or partially awake, to deep sedation and general anesthesia that causes partial or complete unconsciousness.
Your child’s dentist may recommend sedation dentistry for wisdom teeth extractions and other procedures that are known to cause pain and/or require patients to spend several hours in the dental chair. Young children who experience anxiety during dental treatments may be given mild sedatives to ensure they’re calm and comfortable throughout the procedure.
Learning about the different types of sedation medications and anesthesia gives parents a better understanding of what to expect if their child requires dental sedation.
Types of Sedation Dentistry
The types of dental sedation recommended for children can vary depending on the treatment performed. Local anesthetics are often administered along with sedative medications to numb the affected areas before treatment. Common types of dental sedation include:
- Laughing gas: The scientific term for laughing gas is oxygen and nitrous oxide, and it’s generally administered to children who are fearful or anxious. Laughing gas is a form of conscious sedation, so children are awake yet calm for procedures ranging from exams and teeth cleaning to orthodontic treatments. Patients receive laughing gas via a mask that fits over the nose, and the effects of the gas dissipate at mask removal.
- Oral sedation: Oral sedation is administered in the form of a sedative that’s taken approximately an hour before a child’s dental appointment. Patients may be directed to take a sedative the night before the appointment. Oral sedation is somewhat stronger than laughing gas, and patients are sometimes monitored throughout their procedures to ensure their heart rate and breathing remains stable. Patients under oral sedation are usually awake during treatment, but they typically have little memory of the procedure.
- IV sedation: Many dentists are able to administer minimal sedation, but this is not the case with IV Sedation. A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is the safest way to administer this type of sedation. When IV Sedation is administered by an experienced CRNA, it is a very safe procedure. The CRNA will go over your child’s medical history to ensure it is safe for your child to be sedated. The most commonly administered intravenous sedation is known as “twilight sedation.” When patients are under twilight sedation, they are conscious but typically unaware of their surroundings and what is happening during the procedure.
Sedation Dentistry for Children
Sedation dentistry may be necessary for pediatric patients for many reasons. IV sedation may be recommended for complex oral surgery to ensure the patient feels no pain and is completely relaxed. For common procedures such as dental exams and regular cleanings, a children’s dentist may suggest laughing gas or oral sedation for children who express anxiety, and fear, or have difficulty sitting still. The dentist may recommend sedation for children undergoing multiple procedures in one sitting and those with strong gag reflexes that may hinder dental work.
Weighing Out Sedation Dentistry Options
Dental sedation is a helpful solution that ensures young patients are calm and comfortable during dental processes ranging from teeth cleanings to oral surgery. Learning about the different types of sedation available and consulting with children’s dental professionals and CRNAs can help parents determine the best option for their child. If you have more questions about children’s sedation dentistry, contact our office today.