Using Sedation in Children’s Dentistry
When your child needs a dental procedure, it is normal to experience some anxiety ahead of the appointment. At Dentistry for Children Virginia, our expert pediatric dentists safely use nitrous oxide and other forms of sedation dentistry to keep your child comfortable and pain-free while we restore their smile back to optimal health.
The use of nitrous oxide in children’s dentistry can help the patient tolerate longer appointments and reduce anxiety related to the procedure. Before the appointment, make sure your child is feeling well and can breathe easily through their nose. This will ensure the nitrous oxide is breathed in effectively, and so your child feels comfortable for the duration of the procedure. If your child has a cold, fever, ear infection or stuffy nose, our dentists recommend rescheduling the procedure for when your child feels back to normal.
Types of Sedation
- Nitrous Oxide: Nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” is a mild form of sedative that is colorless and sweet-smelling and produces sensations of euphoria, drowsiness, tingling, and warmth. Nitrous oxide is breathed in through a small mask placed over the nose that stays on for the duration of the procedure.
- Mild to Moderate Sedation: Mild to moderate sedation is an oral sedative, safely administered by the dentist, that will allow your child to feel calm and be awake for the procedure. This type of sedation is more commonly used for older children and adults, and it allows the patient to breathe on their own and respond to the dentist during the procedure.
- Deep Sedation with IV: Deep sedation administered intravenously is designed to help the patient sleep through the procedure. Your child may still move and make noises during the procedure. Deep sedation with an IV will be administered and monitored by a certified anesthesia professional, such as an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist. They will be present for the duration of the procedure.
- General Anesthesia: For general anesthesia, your child will be completely asleep for the procedure. General anesthesia is also administered intravenously by a certified anesthesia professional separate from the dentist. The anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist present will monitor your child and keep them comfortable and pain-free for the duration of the procedure.
Benefits of Using Nitrous Oxide in Pediatric Dentistry
Nitrous oxide is a safe and effective form of sedation, tolerated well by most children to reduce their anxiety during a dental procedure. Laughing gas can also ease your child’s hyperactive gag reflex and help them remain pain-free for the appointment. Nitrous oxide is also quickly eliminated from the body with the use of oxygen, allowing the patient to rapidly recover from its effects.
Is Nitrous Oxide Safe for Children?
Dentists consider nitrous oxide one of the safest forms of sedative in pediatric dentistry. Nitrous oxide has a rapid onset, can be reserved and adjusted throughout the procedure, is non-allergenic, and can be quickly eliminated after the procedure.
Although nitrous oxide is safe and tolerated well by children, dental offices do not use nitrous oxide as a general anesthetic or to put a patient to sleep. Nitrous oxide is best used to ease anxiety related to a procedure, raise the patient’s pain tolerance, and reduce a hyperactive gag reflex. Local anesthetic may still be necessary to ensure a comfortable and pain-free procedure.
Post-Sedation Procedure Instructions
Following a procedure using sedation, monitor your child and help them remain comfortable immediately following their appointment. If any swelling is present, use an ice pack to help with the inflammation. Give them soft foods such as smoothies, mashed potatoes, pudding, or lukewarm soup, and encourage them to stay hydrated.
If your child is experiencing any pain, you can help relieve the pain with over-the-counter medication like children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If the pain is severe or does not subside after 24 hours, contact our office as soon as possible.