boy wears sedation respirator in dental chair

Is Sedation Dentistry Safe for Children?

Team Pediatric Dentistry, Sedation Dentistry

As a pediatric dental practice, we specialize in creating a safe, welcoming environment that allows kids to feel comfortable at the dentist’s office. For most kids, this is enough to help them feel calm and at ease when they need dental work. This isn’t always the case, though, and sometimes sedation dentistry is needed to help a patient through their procedure. If you’re a parent, you probably wonder, “is sedation dentistry safe for children?” We understand your concerns; here’s what you need to know.

Understanding the Different Types of Sedation Dentistry

The dangers of sedation dentistry have received a lot of attention in recent years, but it's important to read past the headlines and viral stories on social media. When you hear about the risks of sedating children for dental care, it’s almost always regarding intravenous sedation (sometimes called deep sedation) or general anesthesia. This type of sedation is rarely used by pediatric dentists.

If you've ever had surgery, you're well aware that general anesthesia has a number of serious risks. That’s why general anesthesia is not often used in pediatric dentistry, and when it is, it is done in a hospital setting with the support of an anesthesiology team.

IV sedation induces a deep state of drowsiness without causing the patient to lose consciousness. People often feel as if they are asleep during a procedure with IV sedation and have no recollection of it afterwards. If IV sedation is not administered properly, a child may fall into a deeper level of unconsciousness and have difficulties breathing on their own. New recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry have been issued to prevent this, but many parents are still anxious about this form of sedation.

We put your child's safety first, which is why we only use conscious oral sedation and nitrous oxide in our office, which are both safe, mild forms of dental sedation. We do not use IV sedation at our practice, and if general anesthesia is needed, it is performed in a hospital setting.

The Safety of Nitrous Oxide and Conscious Oral Sedation

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is the best sedation dentistry option for children. It allows kids to be responsive, aware of their surroundings, and engaged with our staff while also allowing them to relax despite any anxiety they may be experiencing. There are very few risks associated with nitrous oxide because it wears off within seconds.

For children who need a little more help feeling at ease, we offer conscious oral sedation. We will prescribe an oral sedative for your child to take before his or her procedure. This will help them feel deeply relaxed and drowsy, but they will remain conscious. Like nitrous oxide, conscious oral sedation has few risks and only mild side effects.

If you're worried about your child's ability to tolerate dental procedures without IV sedation, you should know that most children respond well to nitrous oxide and conscious oral sedation. We think it’s important for children to be awake and aware during their dental procedures, because this helps them overcome their anxieties. When they see there’s nothing to be scared of, they’re less likely to need sedation during their next visit!

Learn More About Sedation Dentistry for Children

If you’d like to learn more about sedation dentistry and whether it’s right for your child, contact us today at 301-327-1003.