Dental Sedation In Children and Infants | Dental Treatment Guide

Dentistry is a highly important part of a child's health; however, many children have dental anxiety which make them uncooperative or nervous when dental work or examination is required.

A combination of behavioural management and local anaesthetic or sedation can help to alleviate the above problems in paediatric dentistry. Sedation offers children a painless dental experience, which is free from anxiety. This is useful in the short term as your child will have a more pleasant experience, and is also helpful in the long term as it provides a level of trust and reduced anxiety (due to the absence of painful memories of previous dental visits).

The preferred method of sedation for use with children who have dental anxiety is inhalation sedation. This is because dental practitioners generally believe that inhalation sedation will provide your child with a positive mental response to the dental procedure (decreasing the chances of future dental anxiety), minimize the likelihood had your child's behaviour will interrupt the procedure or disrupt the dental practitioner's ability to work effectively, as well as reducing the possibility that your child's dental experience will be painful or uncomfortable.

Your child will undergo a patient assessment prior to sedation, in which their medical and dental history will be discussed. The child's parents (or legal guardians) have to give consent for the dental procedure to continue, and in some cases your child's consent may also be needed. You will then have the details of dental sedation (as well as the procedure for which it is needed) explained to you. You may also be provided with instructions, to be followed both before and after the child has been sedated, to ensure that they are prepared, recover well and to minimise the risk of complications.

Your child should be accompanied by an adult on their way to and returning from the location of the dental practise. This is necessary in order to ensure your child's safety and health. Whilst your child is sedated they will be monitored by a trained dental practitioner or other medical staff.

You should also control what your child eats before they have dental sedation. Your dentist or medical practitioner will explain this to you, but these are rough guidelines of what you can expect:

  • If your child is having inhalation sedation then they should not consume too much food in advance of the procedure, one light meal at most in the two hours before the sedation is recommended.
  • With all other forms of sedation it is advised that your child should not eat solid food within six hours of the sedation, you should avoid letting them drink milk within four hours and clear fluids within two hours of sedation. These guidelines apply to your child before they have dental sedation, not afterwards (although you may be given some instructions with regards to your child's diet after they have been sedated).

Inhalation sedation is preferred for use with children as it is less likely to produce negative effects on cardiovascular and respiratory function. This makes it safer for use with children than some of the alternatives. It is generally preferred by dentists over general anaesthesia for use in extracting teeth from children. Nitrous oxide gas has also been described as having a pleasant, sweet odour. That makes inhalation sedation preferable for use with children, as it is more pleasant to inhale.

Intravenous sedation is not often recommended for use with very young children who require sedation due to dental anxiety. If your child does require intravenous sedation and is under the age of fourteen, they should be sedated in a hospital facility.

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