10 Questions About Oral Conscious Sedation

When your child needs a dental treatment, it can be difficult to watch them go through it. The anxiety that many children experience during dental procedures can make the entire process harder, especially when they’re too scared to cooperate with you or their dentist. You might wonder, “Would finding a practice that offers sedation dentistry near me help my child?” However, since sedation dentistry isn’t discussed very often, you may not know much about it; as a parent, we understand that this can make it feel like a scary option. To help you understand sedation dentistry better and determine whether or not it might help your child, we’ve answered 10 common questions about oral conscious sedation.

1. What is oral conscious sedation?

It’s a term for a combination of medications used to ease your child through their procedure without putting them to sleep. It does this by relaxing them and preventing them from feeling pain, which makes your child more cooperative and helps the procedure finish quickly and easily. Since they’re awake, your child can answer their dentist’s questions and follow directions if necessary.

2. How safe is sedation dentistry?

It’s very safe when you choose an experienced dentist for the job, but there’s always a risk when sedation is involved. Even though the risk is low, you should make sure you’ve chosen the best dentist for the job. They should have plenty of experience with pediatric and sedation dentistry and be honest with you about the potential risks and benefits of using sedation dentistry in your child’s individual case. Additionally, sharing your child’s complete medical history and current list of medications with their dentist prevents drug interactions and lowers the risk of complications. Complications are rare, however, and your child’s vital signs will be monitored closely throughout the procedure to keep them safe.

3. Should I ask my dentist for sedation for my child?

Since there is always a small amount of risk involved with sedation dentistry, it’s best to weigh your options carefully. Studies indicate that complications are more likely to happen in children below the age of six, so try to limit sedation dentistry to when it’s absolutely necessary. Conscious sedation is sometimes necessary to get your child through a procedure as quickly, easily, and with as little stress as possible. Whether or not sedation dentistry is best for your child depends on your individual circumstances, and the decision is ultimately up to you. If you’d like to learn more about sedation dentistry or potential alternatives to it, you can schedule a consultation with Dr. Cooper or Dr. Day to discuss all of your options.

4. What are the levels of sedation dentistry?

There are four levels of sedation dentistry, including minimal, moderate, and deep sedation, as well as general anesthesia. When under minimal sedation, your child is relaxed but completely awake. Moderate sedation takes this a step further, so although your child usually remains awake throughout the procedure and can respond to questions and directions from dentists, they’ll be very sleepy, may slur when they speak, and likely won’t remember the procedure very well. Under deep sedation, your child will be barely awake or lightly asleep but can be easily woken up by their dentist and remains responsive. General anesthesia is the type of anesthesia that’s commonly used for surgeries, rendering your child deeply unconscious for the entire procedure.

5. What kinds of safe sedation options are there for children?

There are several different sedation options for children, each of which induces a different level of sedation. Nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as “laughing gas,” is a very safe, mild sedative that will relax your child without making them sleepy. Alternatively, children may be given an oral medication similar to valium to induce mild to moderate sedation, though this method usually takes between 20 minutes and an hour to take effect. IV medications like propofol may also be used to achieve a moderate or deep level of sedation while monitoring their vital signs closely. When necessary, general anesthesia can keep your child unconscious for the duration of a procedure.

6. Can any dentist perform sedation dentistry?

Most dentists can perform some level of sedation dentistry, but dentists need to undergo special training to administer different types of sedatives to patients. Nearly all dentists can administer minimal levels of sedation, while a smaller—but still sizeable—number of dentists can administer moderate sedation using IV medication. Putting patients under deep sedation and general anesthesia, however, requires more specialized training and is much less common. It’s wise to ensure your child’s dentist has the right training for the type of sedation dentistry your child needs, as well as plenty of real-world experience administering it.

7. How long does it take for sedation to wear off?

This depends heavily upon what type of sedation your child was given. Nitrous oxide wears off in about five minutes, while oral and IV medications can take several hours to wear off and may remain in your child’s system for 24 hours. During this period of time, an adult should be with your child at all times. Dr. Cooper or Dr. Day will give you detailed information about how long it will take for your child to fully recover and what activities you should restrict, such as sports, until the sedative is completely out of their system.

8. What will my child be like after oral conscious sedation?

Your child may wake up from moderate or deep sedation a little confused and will likely feel drowsy for several hours after the procedure, so make sure they get plenty of rest once they get home. You may also notice that they’re less coordinated or a little off-balance for a few hours after the procedure, so watch them carefully and restrict activities where they could get hurt because of bad coordination. Any type of sedation may cause mild to severe nausea or vomiting when your child wakes up.

9. Will nitrous oxide gas really make a person laugh?

Nitrous oxide might be called “laughing gas,” but the truth is it doesn’t always give you an incurable case of the giggles. The gas is known to make people calm and relaxed or give them a happy, even euphoric feeling. This can certainly make you feel like laughing with joy, but most people don’t start laughing with no end in sight. After all, that wouldn’t make nitrous oxide very practical for use in dental work!

10. Are you put to sleep for wisdom teeth removal?

Not everyone needs to be put to sleep to remove wisdom teeth; the procedure can be performed under localized anesthesia, where their mouth is numbed, IV sedation, or general anesthesia. The level of sedation your child will need depends on their individual case. If their wisdom teeth are impacted or they’re getting all four removed at once, for example, they’re much more likely to receive heavier sedation.

If dental procedures make your child anxious, fearful, or uncooperative, conscious sedation can help make the entire experience less stressful for everyone involved. There are many factors to consider when putting your child under any type of sedation, however, so it’s wise to carefully consider all of your options. If you have questions about sedation dentistry or would like to discuss how to manage your child’s fear during dental procedures, feel free to contact our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Cooper or Dr. Day.


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