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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 pediatric 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.
The dentist will assess the medical history of the child, the expected duration of the procedure, and the child’s comfort level before recommending sedation.
What type of sedation do we offer?
Conscious sedation allows children to continually communicate, follow instructions, and cooperate during the entire procedure. The method of conscious sedation used in our office is IV sedation.
Intravenous sedation is a moderate type of sedation. Patients who have previously experienced IV sedation often report feeling like they slept through the entire procedure. Generally, IV sedation is used for shorter treatments. It is administered via direct injection into the bloodstream, which means the effects are immediate. Sometimes patients feel groggy and sleepy when the IV sedatives are withdrawn.
What about general anesthetia?
General anesthetia (which puts the child in a deep sleep), is rarely used in dental work unless:
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.
The child needs more complex dental treatment or oral surgery.
General anesthetia requires more intensive preparation before the treatment and a longer period of recovery after the treatment. Conscious sedation is usually favored wherever possible.
If you have questions or concerns about sedation, please contact our practice.