Dental sedation for children

We all know how children can be when it’s time to go to the dentist. After all, when we were young, we also didn’t like to go and were pretty apprehensive. But keeping your teeth healthy is important, especially at a young age. In order for dental appointments to go down and smooth as possible, some dentists will also recommend sedation during the treatment. You might be worried about this, but there’s no need.

What types of sedation are there?

Depending on the procedure that is being performed and on your child, the dentist can choose between various types of sedatives.

Laughing gas or nitrous oxide is probably the most well-known form of sedation. It is also the lowest level. It is combined with oxygen and administered through a breathing mask. Laughing gas is a non-invasive form which will leave your child’s system as soon as he/she stops breathing it in. Nitrous oxide won’t cause your child to go to sleep. It will only help him/her to relax so that the dentist can perform the procedure.

Another form which is administered through oral drugs is called mild sedation. Just like laughing gas, this type won’t cause your child to go to sleep. They will still be able to converse verbally, but his/her movement and coordination will be affected. Mild sedation doesn’t affect respiratory or cardiovascular functions so there’s no need for additional monitoring.

Moderate sedation can cause drowsiness and children usually can’t converse coherently. Some might feel sleepy after the procedure and may not even remember the procedure took place.

Deep sedation is a bit higher level of sedation a dentist can use. It is an intravenous drug and it will cause your child to go to sleep. Some movement is expected as a response to stimulation or pain, but other than that, they will be in deep sleep.

Recovery from this sedative might take some time and since it can impair (doesn’t mean that it will) the respiratory and cardiovascular functions of your child, it’s required that there’s an extra person in the room to monitor this through the procedure.

The highest type of sedation is certainly general anaesthetic. Just like the previous type, this is also administered intravenously and it will too put your child to sleep. But the one difference is that they won’t be able to respond to any type of stimulation, even pain.

Recovery from general anaesthetics takes the longest and they will (and should) feel a bit drowsy afterward. When this type of sedation is used, there’s a specialised anaesthetist in the room who will monitor your child.

When is it necessary?

Not every dental procedure will require sedation. Sedation is generally used if the procedure is painful, to avoid discomfort or if the procedure is long.

As we mentioned above, many children are anxious about going to the dentist. The goal of a parent and the dentist is to make this experience as pleasant as possible and smooth in order to avoid trauma or fear of dentists.

Depending on the level of anxiety your child is experiencing, different types of sedation will be used. So if your child is only mildly anxious, nitrous oxide aka laughing gas will be enough.

For children that have behavioral disorders like ODD, CD or ADHD dentist usually go with higher and stronger level of sedation so they could be calm during the procedure. Explaining that the procedure is necessary and that dental health is important is really difficult so the entire experience could be frightening to them.

Hope this will alleviate any concerns you have about sedation for your child’s next dental appointment. And remember, sedation has been in the dentistry industry for a long time. It is constantly improved and people that administer it are highly trained. If you would like to schedule an appointment for your child, whether he/she has a toothache or to do a regular checkup, make sure to contact us today.


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Dr. Nguyen
Dr. Nguyen

Dr. Nguyen is committed to providing high-quality dentistry using state-of-the-art equipment to help you achieve improved oral health and the beautiful smile you deserve.

Dr. Nguyen has served on the Virginia Board of Dentistry and has many achievements such as: Invisalign Premier and Teen Provider, Pre-Fellow with Academy of General Dentistry, Graduate of Aesthetic Continuum, Engel Institute for Dental Implant Training, WaveOne Endodontic Training, HD President’s Club.

Dr. Nguyen enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters, staying active in the gym, and trying out new restaurants.  When he isn’t at work, you can find him playing basketball, tennis, football, or hiking.

“I want to make you feel right at home, exceed your expectations, and provide an amazing experience!”