Sedation is a medication that is administered to a child to help them remain calm and still for a procedure. There are many forms of sedation and it can be done in a dentist’s office.
It is important to note that sedation does not provide pain control. A dentist may use injections in the area where a procedure will be formed to prevent your child from experiencing any pain.
Types of Sedation
There are many types of sedation including:
Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas): This is a mild sedative that helps children remain calm and relax during dental procedures. A mask is placed on the child and a mixture of air and medication is delivered by breathing in through the nose. The medication may smell sweet. Within about five minutes, the sedation will begin to work and the mask will remain in place until the procedure is over. Your child will remain conscious during the entire procedure and may give your child a euphoric feeling. After the procedure is complete, the nitrous oxide will be shut off and pure oxygen will be run through the mask for about five minutes in order to clear out any remaining gas. Children should only have a light meal prior to the procedure.
IV Sedation: Intravenous (IV) sedation is used when longer procedures are needed. A needle is inserted into the child’s vein either in the arm or hand. Medication can be provided as needed during the procedure to help keep your child relaxed. It is important to follow any pre-procedure instructions when IV sedation will be used. Eating and drinking are usually restricted prior to the procedure and are based on a child’s age.
Oral Sedatives: An oral sedation may be given to nervous children. The medication can be administered through the mouth or nose and may make a child drowsy. Within about 20 minutes, your child will begin to feel the medicine working. The dentist will have the child take the medication once they arrive for their appointment. Make sure to verify any drinking and eating restrictions prior to the appointment to ensure the medication can work properly.
What to expect after sedation
Sedation can impact each child differently. The length of time it will take for medication to wear off will depend on the child. Their reaction may also vary – some children can be fussy or confused, some cry, and some feel sick to their stomach and/or vomit. These reactions are all normal and will go away shortly. It is best to just comfort your child until the medication completely wears off.
It is important to use caution when eating or drinking after a dental procedure with sedation. The nose, throat, and mouth may be numb for one to two hours following the procedure. This means the child may bite their tongue or the inside of their mouth if they are not careful. Soft foods are recommended for the first few hours after a dental procedure with sedation.
Your child should take it easy for the rest of the day and should not return to school. Be sure to follow your dentist’s patient specific guidelines for aftercare, as they will depend on the type of dental procedure received.
When to call the dentist
Sometimes children are sore and uncomfortable after a dental procedure. Children’s Tylenol or Motrin can help control discomfort. If your child is experiencing any of the following for more than 24 hours, you should call your dentist:
- Severe pain
- Severe bleeding of the gums
While it is rare for these symptoms to last for longer than 24 hours, it is important to be aware of them and to contact your dentist if you have any concerns.