Sedation dentistry for children

What Should You Do If Your Child is Afraid of Visiting the Dentist?

It is commonly observed these days, that the children are afraid of visiting the dental office, even for a routine checkup, and would make any excuse, just to somehow evade this dreadful interaction with the dentist. Children who are afraid of dental procedures are not only unable to sit through long procedures, but also make it extremely difficult for the dentist to even perform the simplest tasks. However, thanks to current innovations in dentistry which have enabled the safe procedures to sedate the children, their fears can be relieved, and they become more cooperative during the procedures.

What is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry involves the use of various safe medications to make your child calm and relaxed, especially when long dental procedures are to be performed upon them. In this way, the child becomes sufficiently sedated not to remember the activities performed during the procedure, but awake enough to respond to, and interact with the dentist.

Who Can Benefit From Sedation Dentistry?

While the most common use of sedation in dentistry is to provide effect to a child during dental procedures, it can also be used for following purposes:

  • For children who have a low pain threshold
  • For children who cannot sit still for long durations
  • For children who have a severe gag reflex
  • For performing large number of procedures in a single sitting

What Are the Types of Sedation?

The dentist can choose from several types and degrees of sedation, depending upon the severity and estimated duration of the procedure:

  • Inhalation Sedation - this is the most common form of sedation, and involves the administration of nitrous oxide, also known as the laughing gas, with the help of an inhalation mask. The gas is mixed with oxygen, and the child is instructed to breath from the nose. The effect of the sedative is almost immediate, and takes around five minutes to provide a soothing and calming effect on the child. Once, the required procedure has been performed, the administration of nitrous oxide is terminated, and the sedative effect quickly wears off, while the child breaths pure oxygen through the mask for some time
  • Oral Sedation - if the child is nervous, oral sedation can be used, which provides a more potent sedative effect. The medication is administered through the mouth, once the child arrive at the dental office, and takes around 20 minutes to take effect. Most commonly used oral sedatives include midazolam, alprazolam and diazepam. The parents are advised, not to feed the child with foods and drinks, after the midnight before the procedure is planned.
  • Intravenous Sedation - for extremely anxious and frightened children, an intravenous route of administration of the sedative can be opted. Although it requires the use of a needle to administer the drug, the effect of the medication is prompt, potent, and lasts for several hours. Once the procedure is done, the child is kept in the recovery room, and observed for a few hours before being dismissed.

Is The Sedation Procedure Safe?
Like all other dental procedures, there are very slight chances of occurrence of adverse effects, when using sedation. However, this procedure is quite safe, when performed under the supervision of dentist trained in sedation procedures, or an anesthetist who complies with the requirements of the American Dental Association (ADA). Most dental offices now have dedicated anesthetist to supervise dental procedures performed under sedation.

What to Expect After Sedation?
After a procedure has been performed on a child using sedation, following things can be expected:

  • The child's teeth, lips and nose may remain number for an hour or two after the procedure, due to the effect of local anesthesia.
  • Depending upon the type of procedure performed, the child's lips and gums may remain inflamed for a few days. Frequent rinses with normal saline and strict oral hygiene measures can help with quick relief of symptoms.
  • Care should be taken while feeding the child from accidently biting the tongue, while the anesthetic agent's effect still lasts.

What You Need to Know
While sedation is an excellent technique for performing dental procedures on nervous and frightened children, it must, however, kept in mind that most sedative agents do not provide a pain relieving effect, and a separate analgesic agent in the form of a local anesthesia must also be separately administered to ensure absence of pain sensations in the area of operation.

Sedation dentistry can be safely recommended for child patients who are unwilling to go the dentist's office, just because they are afraid of scary environment of a dental clinic. With the help of sedation, they won't ever remember what happened during the procedure, and the best part is, that they would actually be more responsive and cooperative.

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