Regular dentist visits are an incredibly important part of keeping your child’s teeth healthy. However, bringing your child to the dentist can often be easier said than done. Many children have anxiety about the dentist, and children with special needs present their own set of challenges while at the dentist.
If you have a child who is difficult at the dentist, you may feel like there’s just no way to keep up with dental visits every 6 months. Luckily, there is a simple, safe solution for parents like you: sedation dentistry for children. What is sedation dentistry, anyway? Read on to find out more and to see if sedation dentistry is right for your child.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
With sedation dentistry, your child receives mild to deep sedative medications to help relax them or put them to sleep while they undergo a dental procedure. Sedation dentistry, also known as sleep dentistry, is ideal for children with anxiety, with special needs, or who simply have trouble sitting still during procedures. It allows children who would otherwise have trouble at the dentist to get the top-notch dental care that they deserve. Your child’s dentist will work with you to determine what level and type of sedation will be best for your child after considering their medical history, needs, and the procedure that needs to be done.
Types of Sedation
Depending on the procedure and the patient, your child’s dentist can opt to use various levels of sedation. There are four levels available during sleep dentistry: minimal sedation, moderate sedation, deep sedation, and general anesthesia. With minimal sedation, your child will be awake during the procedure but will feel totally relaxed. With moderate sedation, your child is still awake, but they won’t have much memory of the procedure. With deep sedation, your child is asleep but not quite unconscious. With general anesthesia, your child is completely unconscious and asleep for the whole procedure.
In addition to different levels of sedation, there are also different kinds of sedatives used during sedation dentistry:
- Inhaled sedation produces the most mild sedative effect. Your child will inhale nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) combined with oxygen.
- Oral sedation is administered to your child via a medication called Halcion. They’ll take the medication an hour before the procedure. Oral sedation can produce a mild or moderate sedation depending on the dose, so your dentist will discuss your child’s options beforehand. A lower dose will make your child drowsy but keep them conscious and relaxed. With a higher dose, your child will be asleep but easily awakened with a light touch.
- IV sedation provides a moderate level of sedation. This type of sedative is administered to your child intravenously and thus works much more quickly than oral sedation.
Deep sedation and general anesthesia are administered via an inhaled solution. Both of these types of sedatives leave your child will no memory of the procedure.
Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?
As a parent, you want to keep your child safe at all times, and a sleep dentistry procedure is no exception. Luckily, sedation dentistry is a safe procedure for children. To make sure that the procedure is as safe as possible, your child’s dentist will perform a thorough review of their medical history and current medications before considering sedation. During sedation, your child will be monitored extensively to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
At Children’s Dentistry, your child will work with Dr. Steven DeLisle, who is a board-certified Dentist Anesthesiologist with extensive experience working with children. After graduating from dental school at the University of Washington, Dr. Delisle enrolled in Anesthesia residency at Loma Linda University, where he treated over 2,000 special needs and pediatric patients under general anesthesia.
What Procedures Qualify for Sedation?
What is sedation dentistry used for? Is it only for lengthy, extensive procedures? No! Sedation dentistry can be used for any type of dental procedure that your child needs, from something as simple as regular preventative care to something as complex as pulpal therapy.
Often, more complex procedures like root canals or pulpal therapy require higher levels of sedation since those procedures tend to be longer and more painful than routine work like cleanings. Even if your child does not have anxiety or special needs, considering sleep dentistry for these procedures can help make their experience as positive as possible and will mitigate the possibility of a bad experience.
If your child is a pro at the dentist, they may not need any form of sedation dentistry for simple procedures like routine cleanings, and that’s great! Not every child will need sedation at every visit. However, for children with intense anxiety or other special needs, having the option of sleep dentistry will allow them to undergo simple procedures that they may otherwise have been unwilling or unable to sit through. If you want to know when your child may benefit from sedation dentistry, talk to your child’s dentist.
What is sedation dentistry like in practice? There are several components to consider: before the procedure, the procedure itself, and post procedure. With each stage, parents can take action to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
Before your child even goes in for sedation, there are steps that parents can take to help things go smoothly. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children tolerate sedation and dental procedures better if parents explain what’s going on. Do your best to explain things to your child and answer any questions they may have. Before they undergo sedation, it’s important to follow the dentist’s instructions about restricting food and drink. Make sure you provide the dentist will your child’s full medical history and list of medications to ensure that they’re able to provide your child with the proper type and level of sedation.
At the dentist’s office, parents should be calm and encouraging to help keep their child calm. If your child’s dentist says it’s okay, you can allow your child to bring a comfort item like a blanket or stuffed animal to make them feel safe. Your dentist may also allow you to hold your child’s hand to keep them calm during the procedure.
While your child is undergoing sleep dentistry, the dentist will take many precautions and safety measures to make sure that everything goes smoothly. Children under sedation will have their blood oxygen level, blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate closely monitored so that any abnormalities can be detected and dealt with swiftly.
Parents are usually asked to be present after the procedure while children come out of the sedation. Your child may be confused, groggy, or nauseous, and having a parent provides a comforting, familiar presence. It’s best to have two adults to transport the child home: one to drive and the other to monitor the child’s breathing.
After undergoing sedation, your child may experience side effects including loss of physical coordination, dizziness, sleepiness, or nausea, so keep their schedule open for the rest of the day. Don’t bring them back to school or daycare; your child should go home to rest. For the first few hours after the procedure, your child should only have soft foods.
There are several signs that you should look out for that may indicate a serious reaction. If your child experiences vomiting, severe pain, severe bleeding, or fever, contact your child’s dentist immediately for further assistance.
Ideal for Children with Special Needs
Children with special needs may experience additional obstacles while at the dentist. They may have intense fear or anxiety, they may be unable to stay still, they may be very sensitive, or they may not be able to understand what exactly is going on. At an ordinary dentist, your child with special needs might struggle with the most basic dental procedures. If going to the dentist feels like an ordeal for you and your child, you’ll be less likely to keep up with appointments.
That’s where sleep dentistry comes in. What is sedation dentistry able to do for special needs children? With so many levels of sedation to choose from, sedation dentistry allows children with special needs to get the dental care they need, no matter how difficult the dentist usually is for them. Whether they simply need light sedation to calm their anxiety or need deeper sedation that will put them to sleep, sedation dentistry will keep your child calm and still so the dentist can work.
The staff at Children’s Dentistry has experience working with children with a variety of special needs, including autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays. We’re committed to providing compassionate, tailored care so that your child can get the quality of dental care that they deserve, no matter what. If you have any concerns about how your child’s dentist should handle your child’s particular needs, feel free to discuss these with your dentist. Our staff will do everything they can to accommodate your child.
May Prevent the Development of Dental Anxiety
The majority of people who experience dental anxiety say that it stems from a traumatic experience at the dentist. These patients underwent a procedure that they found incredibly painful and terrifying, and now they avoid the dentist altogether. Often, patients particularly dislike feeling the dentist drilling in their mouth or feeling pain during the procedure.
With sedation dentistry, your child will be asleep during procedures that could be considered traumatic. Higher levels of sedation mean that they won’t feel anything or even have any memory of the procedure afterwards. Even if your child has to undergo an extensive procedure, sedation dentistry will let them sleep right through the experience. This way, your child won’t associate any pain or trauma with the dentist and will be less likely to develop dental anxiety in the future.
Other Ways of Combating Dental Anxiety
In addition to sedation dentistry, there are other ways to help your child if they feel anxious about the dentist. If your child is old enough, you should do your best to explain dental procedures to them. Many children are afraid of the dentist because they don’t understand what’s going on. If they understand the tools that the dentist is using or what’s happening in their mouth, it can make the whole thing seem less scary. Be careful to avoid negative terms like “pain” and “surgery” since they can actually make your child feel more worried. You can also ask your child’s dentist to explain their tools and procedures.
For young children, you can help prevent them from developing dental anxiety by starting regular dental appointments at a young age. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children visit the dentist by age 1 or 6 months after the eruption of their first tooth. If you start taking your child to their dentist appointments at this young age, you can create a familiar routine. As your child gets older, they’ll be less likely to be afraid of the dentist since they have been there before.
So what is sedation dentistry? It’s simply an additional tool that dentists have to help ensure that your child’s dental visit goes as smoothly as possible. With so many types of levels of sedation from light to deep, your child’s dentist can choose the most suitable type based on your child’s needs. Sleep dentistry is ideal for children with anxiety or special needs and can be used on the most simple to the most extensive dental procedures. Your child will be monitored during the procedure to ensure their safety. As a parent, you always want the best for your child, and sedation dentistry is one way to ensure that your child gets the best dental care possible. If you’re interested in learning more about sedation dentistry or want to make an appointment, contact Children’s Dentistry today.