Visiting the dentist can be stressful for people of all ages. Dental professionals know that having your teeth worked on is not always a comfortable experience, and they do their best to prevent any negative experiences by providing gentle preventative care and using anesthesia when needed during procedures to prevent pain.
When it comes to kids, the experience of visiting a dentist can be especially scary. Young children may not know what to expect, or they may have had a bad experience in the past that has made them fearful of all future dental visits. It can be tough for parents to ensure that their kids get the dental care they need while ensuring that their experience at the dentist isn’t traumatic.
Sedation dentistry, which involves the use of sedatives to relax a patient during dental procedures, is a service that some highly-qualified dentists offer. It is a great option for adults who need major work on their teeth, or for those who are extremely fearful of dental work.
But is sedation appropriate for children? Obviously, safety is the top priority for parents and dentists. Here’s what you need to know about sedation dentistry for kids.
Why Use Sedation for Children?
Most kids don’t need much dental work before their adult teeth start to come in. Basic cleanings are usually enough to keep the teeth healthy and to establish good habits for the future. With proper oral hygiene, most kids won’t need to have any extensive dental work at all.
However, there are some procedures that require the use of anesthesia to reduce discomfort. Adults are usually given an injection of local anesthesia and do not typically need sedation for procedures like fillings or even root canals, but some children are too scared or active to safely perform dental procedures using this method. For children who are very nervous or require extensive dental work, sedation dentistry may be an option.
Types of Dental Sedation
There are several types of dental sedation available. Your child’s dentist will recommend the best option based on the situation. Options include:
- Oral sedation—a pill that is taken shortly before a dental procedure to calm the patient down. The patient will still remember the experience and will not be asleep.
- Nitrous oxide/”Laughing Gas”—similar to oral sedation, inhaled nitrous oxide is intended to produce a calming effect, but the patient will be awake.
- Computer-generated anesthesia—delivers anesthetic with precision using a tiny needle. The patient is awake, but will not feel any pain.
- IV sedation—delivered through an IV, this type of sedation is very deep and the patient may not remember any portion of the treatment. It is most often used for very extensive procedures or patients who are extremely scared of dental work.
Many parents are worried about the safety record of sedation dentistry for children. Tragically, there have been at least a few reports over the years of children dying due to the improper use of sedation or lack of proper monitoring after a procedure.
The good news is that these tragedies are completely preventable. By choosing an experienced, safety-focused dentist specializing in sedation dentistry, parents can have peace of mind. When performed correctly, sedation dentistry is very safe for both kids and adults.
When is Sedation Appropriate?
If possible, it’s always best to help kids overcome any fear they may have about going to the dentist before you decide to pursue sedation dentistry for routine preventative care. Except for rare cases, children should not need to be sedated for dental cleanings and similar procedures.
However, if your child is extremely scared of the dentist or needs more extensive dental work, then sedation may be the safest option. Talk with your child’s dentist about your options and ask for a recommendation. They will be able to help you decide on a treatment plan that’s right for your family.
Making Dental Work a Positive Experience
Parents should make every effort to ensure that their child’s experiences in the dentist’s office are as positive as possible. Early experiences matter when it comes to shaping a child’s attitudes about dental work.
Without regular cleanings and positive early experiences, children can develop oral health issues or might avoid going to the dentist for preventative care when they get older and leave home. This can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, abscesses, and other serious long-term issues.
To make early dental experiences positive, work on brushing and flossing at home from an early age and consider pairing dental visits with something fun—a treat they don’t normally get (but avoid turning to sugary food!), like a trip to the zoo after the appointment. Be sure to listen to your child’s concerns about visiting the dentist and talk them through any anxiety they’re having.
When choosing which dental office to visit, it’s important to choose a gentle dentist who is experienced in working with children. At Gallardo in Miami, the compassionate staff will help your family to feel right at home. Dr. John Paul Gallardo and his colleagues offer a wide range of services, including cleanings, fillings, and sedation dentistry. Call 305-547-8687 to schedule an appointment today.