Sedation Dentistry for Children

Sedation Dentistry for Children in Capitola and Santa Cruz 

What is Sedation?

Some children may exhibit behavior challenges or become anxious when being cared for in the dental setting. As a result, they may not be able to relax or sit still long enough to receive treatment. In these instances, a dentist may suggest the option of using medicine to assist with challenging behavior. Giving medicine to treat anxiety or challenging behavior is known as sedation. Sedation can be provided at varying levels defined by mild, moderate, deep sedation and/or general anesthesia

Nitrous Oxide – Mild Sedation

Nitrous oxide is also known as happy air or laughing gas. Nitrous oxide is mixed with oxygen and delivered through a small mask over the nose. Your child will be asked to breathe through the nose and not through the mouth. When inhaling the combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen, the calming or distracting effects of the medicine will be felt within the first few minutes. The effects of nitrous oxide are mild. It is safe and quickly eliminated from the body. Your child remains awake and can continue to interact with the dentist. When the gas is turned off, the effects wear off very quickly. The dentist will give your child oxygen for a few minutes after treatment. This helps to flush the child’s body of any remaining nitrous oxide.

The “happy air” is intended to be used for children who are mildly or moderately anxious or nervous. It eases their fears so that they can relax. This helps them to receive treatment in a comfortable and safe manner. Sometimes young children may reject wearing the mask. Nitrous oxide may not be the right type of sedation for them. In addition, nitrous oxide can sometimes make a child feel nauseous. To limit nausea is best to feed your child only liquids or a light meal a few hours before the dental appointment. Also, if your child is congested or has trouble breathing through the nose on the day of treatment, nitrous oxide may be less effective.

Conscious Sedation – Moderate Sedation

Conscious or moderate sedation can be achieved by administering a combination of medicines. Commonly moderate sedation can be achieved by swallowing medicine in the form of a syrup or pill in combination with inhaling nitrous oxide and oxygen. Conscious sedation may allow a child to become more relaxed, disoriented and provide varying degrees of amnesia. However, each individual child’s emotional reaction is unpredictable. The child will NOT be ASLEEP and will be able to respond to voices or stimulation. With moderate sedation a child will maintain his or her protective reflexes.

Conscious sedation is indicated to assist in the treatment of children with moderate to severe anxiety and/or challenging behavior. Due to the higher degree of behavior challenges, stronger medicinal effects are experienced by the consciously sedated patient compared to using nitrous oxide and oxygen only. Potential side effects of the conscious sedation medicines may include nausea, irritability, elevated body temperature or inconsolable crying.

In order to safely provide conscious sedation, there is a greater amount of guidelines and precautions to follow before, during and after treatment.  Serious associated risks of sedation include hypoventilation, apnea, airway obstruction, laryngospasms, and cardiopulmonary impairment. By careful pre-procedural evaluation an planning, these adverse response may be minimized, but not completely eliminated.

Before a visit in which your child is to receive oral sedation, you should receive instructions. They will include:

  • Whether to eat or drink before the procedure
  • What to expect during treatment
  • What to watch for after treatment

You may need to carry your child home after sedation. Your dentist also should discuss how your child will be monitored during sedation. You will need to stay for a short time after dental treatment has been completed. During this time, your child will be observed. The dental staff will make sure recovery is complete and look out for any problems.

General Anesthesia – Deep Sedation

General Anesthesia or deep sedation is indicated for children with extensive dental needs and/or behavior challenges. This technique renders your child asleep and unaware of any treatment being preformed. This is the same kind of sleep a child would have for removal of tonsils or placement of ear tubes.

To ensure the best possible care of your child during general anesthesia or deep sedation a team of health care individuals is utilized. The team consists of an anesthesiologist, pediatric dentist and dental support staff.  The anesthesiologist is the medical doctor who is responsible for delivering the general anesthesia and caring for your child while he or she is unconscious.  Many precautions are taken to provide safety for the child during general anesthesia by anesthesia personal who are highly trained to manage complications.  We will discuss the benefits and risks involved with general anesthesia and why it is recommended for your child’s treatment.

Your child will need a physical examination before receiving general anesthesia. This exam will make sure he or she doesn’t have any conditions that could interfere with or be affected by the anesthesia. If your child is sick on the day of the scheduled procedure, call to see if the appointment should be rescheduled.

On the day of the appointment:

  • Follow the doctor’s guidelines about eating and drinking before and after the procedure.
  • Briefly discuss the procedure with your child. Use simple terms that he or she can understand. Talk to your child about the hospital visit and treatment several days before the appointment. This will give the child time to think about it and to ask questions.

Let your child rest quietly at home after the procedure. He or she probably will be ready to resume a normal schedule the next day.

If you have any questions about our procedure, feel free to call our dentistry.


View More