When it comes to kids and dentistry your decisions for sedation can sometimes be a catch-22. You want your child’s procedure to be pain-free so they can develop a positive attitude toward future dental care, but sedation sounds like a scary risk. Is sedating your child for their next dental procedure a good idea, or too risky to consider?
The use of sedation does not come without risks, and there have been some rare incidents over the past several years that might have many parents questioning whether it is necessary at all. The good news is that sedation might not be as risky as you have been led to believe. And there are safe ways to sedate your child, both to reduce their anxiety and to make things go a lot more smoothly — for everyone involved.
When sedation is administered by someone who is highly trained in pediatric sedation for maxillofacial and oral surgery, it can be safely applied with barely any risk. The high-profile cases that you have probably heard about are extremely rare. If your child is already anxious about a dental procedure or has any specific special needs, then sedation actually might be a safer alternative to opting not to sedate.
Sedation ensures not just that your child won’t be scared; it also helps them sit still so that the procedure goes well. If they move around, there is the potential that they can get hurt. Also, if they feel the pain of a procedure, you are reinforcing the notion that dental care is painful and you make it less likely that your child regularly visit a Winnipeg dentists office for good oral health as an adult. The anxiety that a child feels when they are young can translate into an anxious adult who avoids the dentist at any cost — and to their own detriment.
What are the sedation options available and which one is right for your child?
There are many options available for pediatric anesthesia and sedation.
Perhaps the easiest option for your child’s dental procedure is localized anesthesia. It involves using medication to “numb” the area that the dentist will be working on. It helps to deaden the nerves so that your child will not feel any pain. It is an easy way to make the procedure more comfortable, although it does involve shots, which can leave a lasting effect on your child’s memory.
To make the local anesthesia shots a little less painful, nitrous oxide can be used to help make your child less tense. Known as “laughing gas,” it helps to reduce any anxiety that your child might be experiencing, and it also helps them sit still throughout the procedure so that there isn’t any risk of harming them from moving around. They are fully conscious the entire time, so it has very little risks involved.
If you choose oral sedation, your child will be asked to swallow some medication that will make them sleepy. It will take a minimum of thirty minutes to work, however, so it has to be given ahead of time. It can last up to six hours, so patients may leave the office without being fully alert or awake.
The dose is predetermined, so there is the chance that the child might not have enough, and once the procedure is started giving them more is probably not an option. Also, if the procedure is more involved and takes more time, they might come out of sedation while the procedure is being performed, which could be very traumatic. If the patient is given too much, then they might be oversedated, which can be a concern for respiratory reasons, so there are increased risks with oral sedation.
Perhaps the most involved type of sedation for your child’s oral procedure is IV sedation. It has to be administered by a pediatric anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist will administer an exact measured dose of anti-anxiety medication along with the anesthetic. Since your child will have an IV and be monitored continuously throughout the procedure, it is sometimes less risky than oral sedation.
Since it is possible for the anesthesiologist to supply more medicine, there is less risk that it will wear off. And since your child is monitored, the likelihood that they will be oversedated is very low. Your child will have no recollection of the procedure when they wake up, and there are no residual effects from the medicine.
General anesthesia is only considered when the child is at a higher maturity level. There are more risks associated with general anesthesia than with other types of sedation, which is why it is only an option for extreme cases. It puts kids into a deep sleep, an IV line is placed, and a breathing tube is inserted to ensure that your child is getting enough oxygen. Due to the inherent risks, the pros and cons of using this method of sedation should be thoroughly considered.
If you are concerned about sedating your child for their dental procedure, make sure to get all the facts, know the pros and cons of sedation, and make the right decision for your child and your own comfort level.