It is very common in the dental industry to see misleading claims about the types of sedation offices provide. Many dentists claim to offer “sleep dentistry,” when in reality, what they are actually providing is nothing more than conscious sedation. Often, conscious sedation can make someone so relaxed that they fall asleep, but unlike a patient receiving sleep dentistry, they can easily be woken up with a nudge.
Sedation is used in pediatric dentistry for children who are receiving long procedures or who have a high fear of dental care. It is also used for children who have trouble sitting still, such as very young children or those with special needs. At Sprout Kids Dentistry, we want you to be equipped to make informed decisions about your child’s dental care. Therefore, we think it is important that you are able to distinguish between the different types of sedation used in pediatric dentistry.
A child receiving conscious sedation will remain awake and at least somewhat aware of their surroundings. There are two different types of conscious sedation:
Inhaled sedation is the lowest level of sedation and is very safe and mild. It simply relaxes the child enough to sit comfortably through their dental work and gives them a “happy” feeling. The child inhales nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, through a mask over their nose. The child retains complete awareness the whole time, and the effects of the nitrous oxide wear off about five minutes after the mask is removed. This type of sedation is best for children over four years old.
Oral Sedation is taken in a prescribed dosage through either the mouth or the nose. Oral sedation keeps a child relaxed and calm and can also make them a little drowsy. Like inhaled sedation, the child will usually remain awake and somewhat to fully aware during the procedure, but it is not uncommon for the child to fall asleep. Children should be at least three years old to receive this type of sedation.
Sleep Dentistry, as its name implies, puts the child to sleep completely. There are two types of sleep dentistry:
IV sedation takes only a few seconds to put a child to sleep. This method is ideal for those with extreme dental anxiety or behavior issues or for very young children. It is also useful for children who are receiving a large amount of invasive dental work, as it allows them to lie completely still for a long period of time. This sedative is administered through a needle, usually in the arm, hand, or foot. It is usually recommended that a child be at least two years old to receive this type of sedation.
General Anesthesia is the highest level of sedation and is only used when absolutely necessary. A trained anesthesiologist will administer the anesthesia medication and monitor the child while the dentist performs the procedure. The child is completely unconscious while under general anesthesia. This type of sedation is used for children who need to be put completely to sleep but are otherwise not ideal candidates for IV sedation. Sometimes we may recommend that, if the procedure needing general anesthesia is not critical or time-sensitive, it be put off until the child is physically ready.
Sedation Options at Sprout Kids Dentistry
Sprout Kids Dentistry provides pediatric dentistry in Boston. We offer all four of these types of sedation in order to accommodate all children and their varying needs. We would love to talk to you to discuss which sedation options would be best for your child. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Anderson today by calling 617-934-6339 or filling out our online form.