Sedation dentistry uses medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. Sedation is most commonly used during extensive procedures, for patients with dental phobia, or for patients who find it difficult to sit still.
Sedation can range from the use of nitrous oxide to calm a patient to general anesthetics used to put patients to sleep. Patients with dental phobia, low pain tolerance, major dental treatment, physical handicaps, or strong gag reflexes may require sedation.
Sedation is endorsed by the American Dental Association and is an effective way to make many patients comfortable during their dental visit. Before using a sedative or anesthetic, it is important to tell your pediatric dentist about any medications or medical treatments your child is receiving. Before administering any sedative or anesthetic, your pediatric dentist will talk to you about the process of sedation and pre- and post-sedation instructions.
Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, is often used as a conscious sedative during a dental visit. The gas is administered with a mixture of oxygen and has a calming effect that helps phobic or anxious patients relax during their dental treatment. Because it is a mild sedative, patients are still conscious and can talk to their pediatric dentist during their visit. After treatment, the nitrous is turned off and oxygen is administered for five to ten minutes to help flush any remaining gas. The effects wear off almost immediately. Nitrous oxide rarely has side effects. Your pediatric dentist will provide you with pre- and post-sedation instructions if this treatment option is best for your child.
Regardless of the type of sedation you may select for your child and depending on the treatment you are receiving, the pediatric dentist may also need to administer a local anesthetic, which is a numbing medication. The dentist will use this at the site where he or she is working. This will relieve pain and discomfort that may be caused by the procdure.