Sedation dentistry uses a variety of medications to allow patients relax during more complex dental procedures. It’s used to quell claustrophobia, fear of needles and a severe gag reflex, and it may also be used just in case local anesthesia fails.
But in over half of cases, it’s primarily used to help patients deal with dental anxiety. According to statistics, 50% of Americans avoid visiting the dentist regularly because of anxiety, and this is especially true for children. Unfortunately, there’s no treatment to help parents deal with dental anxiety on behalf of their kids, but educating yourself on sedation dentistry can be a great way to stop worrying and help your nervous child.
There are two basic types of IV sedation your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend for your child’s procedure. IV moderate sedation works quickly to put the patient under, and dentists can adjust the level of sedation as the procedure goes on. Deep sedation (or general anesthesia) causes patients to become fully unconscious, and they don’t wake up until the effects have completely worn off.
There are also a few different ways to apply sedation. During inhaled minimal sedation, patients breathe nitrous oxide and oxygen through a mask placed over the nose. Patients are usually awake, but don’t experience fear or pain. The exceptions to this are general anesthesia, which induces full unconsciousness, and sleep dentistry, which uses medication to knock the patient into a state of actual sleep.
Your child will always be monitored throughout the sedation process. The technique used to monitor them will differ based on the level of sedation. Usually your dentist or oral surgeon will use some combination of a pulse oxymeter, capnographer and stethescope to make sure your child is doing okay.
Pulse oxymeters are small, gentle finger clamps that measure heart rate, breathing rate and the oxygen level of the blood. A capnographer measures the depth and quality of your child’s breathing. A stethescope will usually be used with a blood pressure cuff and clinical observation to monitor a child’s general state.
Sedation dentistry is a safe and effective way to get your child through their procedure without pain or fear.