Dental Anxiety and Fear
Sedation Dentistry for Children

In contrast to general anesthesia (which renders the child unconscious), dental sedation is only intended to reduce the child’s anxiety and discomfort during dental visits.  In some cases, the child may become drowsy or less active while sedated, but this will quickly desist after the procedure is completed.

When is sedation used?

Sedation is used in several circumstances.  Firstly, very young children are often unable to keep still long enough for the  dentist to perform high-precision procedures safely.  Sedation makes the visit less stressful for both children and adults and vastly reduces the risk of injury.  Secondly, some children struggle to manage anxiety during dental appointments.  Sedation helps them to relax, cope, and feel happier about treatment.  Thirdly, sedation is particularly useful for children with special needs. It prevents spontaneous movement, and guides cooperative behavior.

What is the most common type of sedation?

Nitrous oxide - Dr. Parker may recommend nitrous oxide (more commonly known as “laughing gas”) for children who exhibit particular signs of nervousness or anxiety.  Nitrous oxide is delivered via a mask, which is placed over the child’s nose.  Nitrous oxide is always combined with oxygen – meaning that the child can comfortably breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Laughing gas or "Buzz Lightyear floaty gas" relaxes children extremely quickly, and can produce happy, euphoric behavior.  It is also quick acting, painless to deliver, and wears off within a matter of minutes.  Before removing the mask completely, the dentist delivers regular oxygen for several minutes, to ensure the nitrous oxide is eliminated from the child’s body.  On rare occasions, nitrous oxide may cause nausea. For this reason, most  dentists suggest minimal food intake prior to the appointment.

What about general anesthetic?

General anesthetic (which puts the child in a deep sleep), is used in dental work when:

  • A procedure cannot otherwise be performed safely.
  • The child has a condition which limits cooperation or the ability to follow instructions.
  • The child needs a lengthy treatment and is unable to co-operate.
  • The child needs more complex dental treatment or oral surgery.

We have worked with Dr. Tom Lenhart of Bay Area Anesthesia for over 15 years with wonderful success for our patients.  He provides his services in our office which allows the patient to stay with the family and have the work done in our office, rather than a hospital setting.  Please visit his website for more detailed information, by clicking here

If you have questions or concerns about sedation techniques, please contact our practice.