Sedation Dentistry for Kids and Teens
Many adults get apprehensive about dental treatment but for kids, it can be a particularly challenging experience.
Sedation dentistry can help children and teens to overcome their anxieties in the dental chair, enabling crucial treatment to be carried out to restore their oral health. Without appropriate dental care from a young age, children face serious health risks such as gum infections and tooth loss. Stained or decayed teeth can also lower self-esteem among kids.
In cases like extractions or fillings, it may alleviate your child’s nervousness if they know sedation options are available to help them cope with the experience by making it less of an ordeal.
Benefits of sedation dentistry for children and teens include minimizing feelings of:
Pediatric sedation dentistry calms and relaxes the young patient, which can enable more treatment to be carried out in less time.
Avoiding Dental Phobia
If your child undergoes sedation for dental treatment, they will likely have little or no memory of the experience, which will reduce anxiety about future dental appointments and make them far less prone to developing the mental health condition of dental phobia.
Dental phobia (odontophobia) and dental anxiety are often taken as meaning the same thing, but there is a difference.
A child with dental anxiety will feel uncomfortable about dental visits. If this apprehension escalates to dental phobia, they will experience extreme dread to the extent of becoming panic-stricken. Severe cases of odontophobia may require cognitive-behavioral therapy from a professional to help overcome this anxiety disorder.
How Dental Sedation Helps Both the Young Patient and the Dentist
Besides the psychological benefits, relaxing a young patient with dental sedation enables the pediatric dentist to carry out the procedure without resistance or interruption.
With some youngsters, their reflexes may cause them to pull away during certain aspects of treatment, and this can delay the procedure.
For young children, sitting still for some time may be difficult. Sedation dentistry in these cases allows the treatment to be completed uninterrupted, quickly and efficiently.
If your young child or teen has a pronounced gag reflex, sedation dentistry can help to ease the sensation of choking or the urge to be sick. Lessening the gagging reaction also helps the dentist to carry out treatment safely and smoothly.
If your child needs a lengthy, complex procedure or multiple treatments, sedation dentistry can save time – and your money – because the dentist will be able to work longer without the patient becoming fretful, enabling completion of treatment in one session.
Without sedation, a youngster’s dental treatment can often take more than one visit because of low tolerance levels, anxiety or inability to stay still or keep their mouth open.
With dental sedation, the dentist can carry out several procedures during a single appointment, and your child will feel as if little time has passed, with no anxiety or discomfort.
Dental Sedation for Youngsters with Special Needs
If your child suffers from a physical or behavioral disorder, they may well have difficulty holding still during dental treatment. Sedation dentistry is ideal for youngsters with special needs because the treatment can be carried out faster and be more comfortable.
From the pediatric dentist’s point of view, dental sedation in these cases makes the treatment easier to perform, particularly if the patient doesn’t really know what to expect or is generally uncooperative.
With special needs young children and teens, it’s not unusual for sedation dentistry to be used for routine check-ups.
When to Consider Sedation Dentistry for Your Child
There are several circumstances in which you might consider dental sedation for your youngster. These include:
- Your child is too young to realize that the dentist is necessary and safe. Sedation can help to minimize these fears.
- You want your youngster to develop lifelong good oral hygiene habits. Children who experience issues with dental appointments often come away with a fear of the dentist and an aversion to oral health-related matters. This can result in poor dental hygiene and avoidance of the dentist later in life. Sedation can prevent these upsetting memories from forming.
- Your youngster requires complex treatment. Few people are comfortable with staying still in the dental chair for extended periods, and children are no exception. If your youngster needs a lot of dental work, sedation can help them to relax and hold still for longer.
- You have a hectic schedule. It can be difficult for a parent to arrange multiple dental appointments to fit around work and school or childcare. Sedation dentistry can shorten extensive treatment into one appointment that’s easy to plan for and leaves your child with little if any memory of the experience.
- You want your youngster to have a short recovery time. Dentists can do their best and safest work on a sedated youngster, which leads to a faster recovery time. Sedation also reduces stress hormones that can cause infection, which speeds up recovery as well.
What Types of Sedation Dentistry are Available for My Youngster?
A good pediatric dentist will typically offer three different forms of sedation: nitrous oxide, oral conscious sedation, and general anesthesia.
Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) has been used for decades to provide safe dental sedation. It’s administered with oxygen and helps to calm young patients within minutes. Nitrous oxide is a mild sedative, and your child will remain awake and able to communicate with the dentist.
Oral conscious sedation entails taking a pill before the procedure and makes children sleepy and less sensitive to dental treatment. Because it’s administered orally, there’s no need for an injection (as with intravenous sedation) so it’s ideal for children with a fear of needles.
Complex cases may require more than nitrous oxide or oral conscious sedation. With general anesthesia, your child will sleep throughout the entire procedure – monitored by a dental anesthesiologist – while the pediatric dentist completes the treatment in one session.