Frequently Asked Questions
Is Sedation Dentistry Right For You?
Does the thought of having dental work make your entire body tense with fear? Would you rather endure the agony of a tooth ache than step foot in a dentist’s office? You’re not alone. A lot of people are so phobic about going to the dentist that they prefer not to have any treatment. For people who avoid dentists like the plague, sedation dentistry may take away some of their anxiety. Sedation can be used for everything from invasive and complicated procedures to a simple routine services such as cleaning. How it’s used depends on the severity of the fear and your health status.
What methods of sedation do we offer?
We do treatment:
- Without Sedation
- Minimal Sedation (Laughing Gas) — you are awake but relaxed.
- General Anesthesia — you are completely unconscious.
During the consultation the dentist will make recommendations and discuss the best treatment options for your child.
How does sedation dentistry work?
The process depends on the type of sedation your child is having.
With nitrous your child will be asked not to eat or drink for 2 hours prior to their appointment. Once your child is seated, we will place a flavored mask over their nose and have them breath. Initially they are breathing oxygen, then the dentist will slowly increase the nitrous until your child is comfortable. Your child is still responsive, can speak and is aware of what is going on. They will feel relaxed and comfortable. At the end of the procedure, they will breath straight oxygen for 5 minutes before being allowed to leave.
For General Anesthesia, there are specific instruction you will be given to have your child follow. For example, nothing to eat for 8 hours and nothing to drink for 4 hours before their appointment. You will be provided with a list of instructions and what to bring for their appointment. Upon arrival a registered nurse will assess your child and ask you questions and the anesthesiologist will review medical information with you. Depending on your child’s age, anxiety level and body mass, medications may be given orally or an IV may be placed before going to the treatment room. Your child may choose one person to accompany them to the treatment room. Once there, a special mask is placed over their nose and mouth and they breath anesthetic gases. This will make them fall asleep. It usually takes 30 seconds. The parent/guardian is then asked to leave the room. If an IV hasn’t already been placed one will be placed now. Your child will have no idea that this is happening. Medication will be given during the procedure to ensure a specific level of unconsciousness. Your child will not be aware of anything that goes on during this time. They won’t feel anything. Once the procedure is completed the anesthesiologist will wake your child up and they will be brought to the recovery room. Your child is monitored during the entire procedure. Once your child can respond to specific criteria they will be released and you can bring them home.
Who Will Benefit From Sedation Dentistry?
Patients who consider sedation dentistry often have different reasons for their interest, such as the following:
- Phobia related to dental procedures
- Bad experience with dental work in the past
- Particularly sensitive oral nerves
- Small mouth that becomes sore during dental work
- Resistance to local anesthetic
- General anxiety disorder
- Patient’s age
- Amount of treatment that is required
- A strong gag reflex
If you recognize yourself in any of those problem areas, consider asking your dentist about sedation dentistry. Dental sedation can help patients get through many types of dental work, such as root canals, tooth extractions, dental implantation, and more. However, it’s typically not offered for regular dental cleanings, X-rays, and other routine care. Cases of extreme anxiety may be a viable reason for sedation during those procedures, though.
Is sedation safe?
Sedation is very safe. Your dentist and the whole team have been extensively trained to care for sedated patients. You will be monitored by special safety equipment the entire time you are at the office, and you will not be released until it is safe for you to go home.
Why is sedation used in children’s dentistry?
If a child is especially fearful, we may not be able to successfully administer treatment. Some multi-procedure visits take several hours. And despite a dentist’s best efforts with local anesthetic, many procedures can be frightening and painful, especially to a child. A tooth extraction or filling a large cavity, for example.
What can parents do to make sure all goes well?
Follow pre-op and post-op instructions to the letter. This is extremely important for the success of your treatment. This includes restricting food and drink prior to the treatment. Be thorough when reporting your child’s medical history. Make sure you tell us which medications your child is taking.
If your child undergoes general anesthesia, make sure you have two adults on the trip home. One adult can drive while the other monitors the child. You will be given instructions on how to care for and monitor your child once they are safely allowed to leave the office. If you have any concerns please contact the office.
Are there any concerns or contraindications?
Sedation has been used in dentistry for a long time, and the drugs and methods used are constantly reviewed. Anyone recommending or administering sedation is specially trained to do so safely. During general anesthetic your child is monitored by a trained professional in the room solely for that purpose.
It is extremely important to note that either a child with a pre-existing condition of malignant hyperthermia or with a family history of malignant hyperthermia, cannot be treated under general anesthetic in our office and would require a hospital setup for the same.
Sometimes sedation can result in side effects such as nausea, vomiting, prolonged drowsiness, and imbalance. These effects usually wear off by themselves. After general anesthesia your child should be closely supervised to prevent falling, choking if they vomit, or airway obstruction.
Sedation of children for dental procedures is a common and safe practice. It may be worrying when your dentist first suggests it, but it is important not to increase your child’s anxiety so that they can maintain excellent dental care throughout their lives.
What Is General Anesthesia (GA)?
During GA appointments, an anesthesiologist works with us in our office to provide the anesthesia. During this appointment, your child is completely asleep and all dental treatment will be completed at this visit. During this time the Anesthesiologist’s only job is to make sure that your child is safe and comfortable. This allows your dentist to concentrate solely on your child’s dental needs while the Anesthesiologist concentrates on your child’s safety.
Can My Child Eat & Drink Before General Anesthetic?
If your child is scheduled for General Anesthesia they CAN NOT eat or drink 8 hours prior to their appointment. These appointments will be cancelled if they have eaten. This is for your child’s safety. If they have eaten or drank prior to their appointment, it is very dangerous for them to be sedated. Even a single Cheerio will begin the process of digestion causing a release of digestive juices into your child’s stomach. We generally are not concerned about the Cheerios, we are concerned about these digestive enzymes. So please, do not feed your child anything the day of their conscious sedation or General Anesthesia appointment unless specifically instructed to do so by the Anesthesiologist. You may find our pre-sedation tips to be helpful as well.
Can I Be In The Room With My Child For Dental Treatment?
During all procedures (exams, nitrous oxide) one parent is able to be in the treatment area. During General Anesthesia, one parent is able to be with their child when they fall asleep and wake up, but not during treatment. During this time, you are asked to wait in the lobby. The office staff will bring you updates during treatment. Staying with your child to comfort them when you are able to is something we encourage.
What are the risks of dental sedation?
Many people understand the risks of medical and dental procedures. To help put your mind at ease, we will review these risks with you in person so that we can answer any questions. Dental sedation, like any medical procedure, carries a certain amount of risk for your child. Your child’s safety and comfort however, remains our highest priority.
Who decides whether my child should receive dental sedation?
The parent ultimately decides on the treatment plan recommended by your pediatric dentist. You can count on your dentist’s help with the decision by reviewing your child’s medical history, studying your child’s x-rays and providing you with advice as to whether your child would benefit from receiving dental sedation. Rest assured that when sedation is needed for your child, your family will be cared for by a highly trained and experienced team of specialists.
How can dental sedation help my child?
Sedation helps children that:
- Are developmentally delayed, special needs or medically compromised.
- Are very fearful or anxious at the dentist.
- It can provide an emotionally positive experience for children that have a history of traumatic dental experiences.
- Have strong gag reflexes.