How Young Is Too Young for Sedation?

Let’s say you have a young child at home who is just terrified of going to the dentist. As in, screaming-so-loud-he-could-wake-the-folks-in-the-next-block kind of terrified.

You’ve no doubt heard about sedation dentistry, which can relax your child to the point that he’s indifferent to what the dentist is doing in his mouth (or about to do). Some dentists refer to this as conscious sedation.

(Note: you may think that sedation dentistry means that your child will be asleep. This is not the case. Instead, your child will become very relaxed and probably won’t remember the procedure at all. However, he will remain awake enough that he’ll be able to follow the dentist’s instructions during his treatment.)

If your child becomes this anxious at the dentist, she may be a candidate for conscious sedation during her treatment

So how young is too young for sedation? In essence, any child of toddler age or older can have some form of sedation. In fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) supports sedation in children younger than 12, so long as the dentist follows ADA guidelines for sedation dentistry of youngsters. And all dentists do follow these guidelines.

Nitrous oxide – you may know it as “laughing gas” – probably will be your dentist’s go-to sedation drug if your child is exhibiting mild or moderate anxiety. The gas is mixed with oxygen and is given to your child via a mask placed over his mouth. A trained and experienced assistant will monitor the gas’ delivery at all times.

If your child is very anxious or scared, your dentist may opt for an oral form of sedation. Your dentist will administer a pill to your child and your child will become drowsy/sleepy, but won’t fall asleep, allowing your child to follow the dentist’s directions during the treatment.

Your dentist might recommend general anesthesia (in which your child is unconscious) depending on the level of your child’s anxiety, her age, as well as the treatment recommended. The dentist will talk to you about your child’s medical history and will examine your child to make sure there are no conditions or other indications that may preclude the use of general anesthesia.

Regardless, your dentist will discuss the pros and cons with you of using any type of sedation on your child. He also will give you careful instructions about what your child should do and not do, eat and not eat prior to coming to the dentist’s office.

Your child probably will be groggy for a couple of hours after conscious sedation, but should be able to resume normal activities in a short time.

If you’d like more information on sedation dentistry for your child, contact Plano cosmetic dentist Dr. Darren Dickson for an appointment. You also can call our office at (972) 737-7039.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

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