Many children sail right through dental procedures. They have no problem having their teeth cleaned, examined, or x-rayed. However, some children experience difficulty with these procedures. For them, sedation may be necessary for a successful dental appointment.

As a parent, you want the best for your child. You want to shield them from pain, and, most of all, you want them to be safe. If your pediatric dentist suggests sedation for your child, you may immediately wonder if sedation is safe for them. There are many different levels of sedation—just as there are many different reasons your child may benefit from sedation at the dentist. At Dr. Beanca Children's Dentistry, your child's comfort and safety are our top priority. If sedation seems necessary, we will work with you to ensure that your child has a good experience. Keep reading to learn more about dental sedation and how it can benefit children.

Why Sedation?

When you think of the term sedation, you may imagine being put under for a surgery. While that is, indeed, one definition of the term, there are different levels of sedation and many reasons for being put under, particularly in the case of children. Some children find it difficult to sit still for longer dental procedures, and sedation can help to keep them calm and unaware of the amount of time passing. Other children may have a fear of the dentist, and sedation can help to make the experience painless. Children with special needs or behavioral issues may also be aided by sedation, making it easier on both patient and dentist.

Sedation does not always equal general anesthesia. A mild sedation can be given, during which a child is fully awake. Oral sedation will allow a child to be awake but not really aware of what's going on. Finally, deep sedation (usually delivered intravenously) will allow a child to sleep through their dental procedure.

Safety and Sedation

At Dr. Beanca Children's Dentistry, we will discuss every option you have when it comes to your child's dental visit, including the options for sedation. Dental sedation is safe for children. The methods your pediatric dentist uses have been around for decades. The effects, correct dosages, and risks of each type of sedation are well-known. Studies have also been done to determine whether the use of sedation has any long-term effects, and the good news is that the effects of sedation don't usually extend beyond a few hours after a procedure.

Most importantly, pediatric dentists have been trained in exactly how to use sedation to safely see children through all types of procedures. The risks associated with sedation are minimal, particularly if you have a qualified provider and follow all the suggestions for preparation and aftercare.

Types of Sedation

In order to make the most informed decision about the type of sedation which might best fit your child's needs, it's vital to understand how each type works.

Mild Sedation

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a mild, non-invasive sedative. Delivered via a mask, nitrous oxide (mixed with oxygen) allows the child to remain awake and able to follow commands. At the same time, the sedation will make them feel relaxed and calm, perhaps even a little silly. In addition to relieving anxiety, this type of sedation also provides a relatively pain-free experience. When the dental procedure is over, the child breathes in pure oxygen, and the effects of the nitrous oxide will dissipate in just a few minutes. There are also medications that can be delivered orally that can offer a mild form of sedation. The child will remain awake and calm while the dental procedure is performed, and they may be able to follow the dentist's directions. After the dental work is done and the sedation wears off, the child may have no memory of what happened.

Moderate Sedation

In the case of high anxiety or a more complicated procedure, the pediatric dentist may opt for stronger sedation. This form of sedation is often better suited to older children or teens. Delivered via oral medication or IV medication, when moderately sedated, a child may be sleepier than when under a milder sedative. Usually, they will remain able to do what the dentist asks them to do. It may take a short while for them to wake fully from the sedation, and they are unlikely to remember any details about their procedure once they recover.

Deep Sedation

Sometimes, it may be necessary to put a child under deeper sedation. At Dr. Beanca Children's Dentistry, this type of sedation is administered with the assistance of a dental anesthesiologist. By using an IV to deliver sedatives, the dentist can carefully control the sedation level. When under deep sedation, a child may drift in and out of consciousness. They are unlikely to be able to follow commands, even if they appear to be conscious. After a recovery period during which they awaken, a child will not remember any part of their procedure.

General Anesthesia

For certain dental procedures, it may be necessary to place them under general anesthesia, so they sleep through the entire process. As with deep sedation, a dental anesthesiologist would administer the anesthetics. It can take some time for a child to recover from general anesthesia, but this type of sedation can make some dental procedures much easier to cope with.

Preparation for Sedation

Each type of sedation has its own set of requirements in terms of preparation. Some require several hours of fasting beforehand, or a period of time where only clear liquids are allowed. Your pediatric dentist will inform you of the protocol for your child's specific procedure. Be sure to follow the directions so your child has the optimum experience and no adverse effects. Aftercare for each type of sedation differs, too. The stronger the sedation, the longer it may take your child to bounce back. Your pediatric dentist can provide information on what to expect with your child's recovery. Mild sedation goes away quickly, while moderate or deep sedation may require several hours of quiet time in which to recuperate.

Dental Sedation for Your Child

If your child is anxious about dental visits or has behavior which makes dental procedures difficult, you may want to consider sedation for your child. It's safe to administer and may make your child more comfortable. If you're in the Huntington Beach, CA, area, we'd love to talk with you about your child and their dental needs. Contact Dr. Beanca Children's Dentistry for an appointment today.