Sedation dentistry involves the use of mild calming drugs to manage fear or anxiety when your child is in the dentist chair. Children who are sedated feel calm and relaxed, and remain awake when receiving dental care. Sedation is often used to make dental procedures easier and less stressful for children with special needs, or to help a child with moderate to intense anxiety get through an appointment that requires several procedures. Sedation may also be a good idea for children who have a strong gag reflex, or for those who find it difficult to sit still for the amount of time it takes to undergo a cleaning and a comprehensive exam.
The three main types of sedation used in pediatric dentistry include:
Nitrous oxide: Also known as laughing gas, this safe, mild sedative is administered through a mask placed over your child’s nose. As your child breathes, she’ll inhale a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide. The medicine has a faintly sweet aroma, and its relaxing effects take place in a matter of minutes. Patients have reported feeling happy, relaxed, and dreamy while under this type of sedation.
Oral sedatives: For children who are very nervous about climbing into the dentist chair, oral sedatives (which can be taken by mouth or through the nose) can be taken about 20 minutes before the scheduled appointment. In addition to their calming effect, oral sedatives are more likely to make your child drowsy.
IV sedation: This type of sedation is administered intravenously, meaning it requires a needle to be inserted into your child’s vein. It’s typically used for longer procedures because it allows Dr. DiBenedetto to extend sedation for as long as it’s needed.
Anytime sedation medicines are going to be used during a dental procedure, there are important rules for eating and drinking that must be followed in the hours before the appointment. The day before your child’s procedure, someone from Dr. DiBenedetto’s team will call you and give you specific pre-sedation instructions. These may include not giving your child any solid food or non-clear liquids after midnight the night before the procedure, and then only allowing clear liquids up until 2 hours before the scheduled appointment. It’s important to follow the instructions exactly as prescribed.
The amount of time it takes for sedation to wear off depends on the type that’s used. The effects of nitrous oxide tend to wear off more quickly than the effects of oral sedatives or IV sedation. Coming out of sedation, your child may feel fussy, groggy, dizzy, confused, or sick to his stomach. These reactions are normal and will disappear once the sedation medicine has worn off completely.