Understanding Sedation Dentistry (General Anesthesia) for Kids

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

Parents often have understandable concerns about kids sedation dentistry in Urbana Maryland. Children are not simply small versions of adults; they have unique situations that require individual treatment approaches.


Fortunately, when administered by a highly trained and competent anesthesiologist, sedation dentistry makes a safe choice for pediatric patients.

Understanding Sedation Dentistry (General Anesthesia) for Kids
Understanding Sedation Dentistry (General Anesthesia) for Kids

Calming Anxiety

It is not uncommon for young children to be anxious when visiting any unfamiliar environment, particularly medical settings with strange equipment and dental staff that may be dressed and acting differently from the adults that they are used to.


If your child is anxious about visiting the dentist, or is a special needs patient, sedation dentistry is a reliably effective and safe procedure that helps your child receive needed dental care. It is very important for parents to find ways to help their children overcome anxiety so that they make dental visits a routine part of their lives into adulthood.


What sedation options are available for my child?

The type of sedation options that are available are based upon the type of procedure that your child will be undergoing. This includes the length of time that the procedure will take and the individual needs of your child. Some dental sedation and anesthesia options include:


Local Anesthesia

The most basic type of sedation option is local anesthesia, involving the injection of a numbing agent in the area of treatment. Local anesthetics work by blocking nerve impulses that transmit pain messages. Your child will feel numb in the area where the local anesthesia was delivered.


Nitrous Oxide

If young children are anxious about undergoing any type of dental procedure, a local anesthetic can be used in conjunction with nitrous oxide, commonly known as 'laughing gas.' This is a safe, odorless and colorless gas that does a great job in reducing anxiety among patients. It is not as effective for patients with dental phobias or those who cannot remain still for any length of time.


Nitrous oxide will not put your child sleep; instead, it helps them feel more relaxed and comfortable, while also being fully aware of their surroundings.


Oral Sedation

With oral sedation, your child will be given a pill to swallow or a syrup to drink, causing a pleasant and relaxing sedation that will last throughout their procedure.


Some considerations with oral sedation include:

  • Sedation can take 30 minutes or longer to take effect, so it must be provided ahead of time and before their appointment.

  • Oral sedation will last a long time – as long as six hours in some cases – so the child may return home and remain sedated upon arrival. So they will need a caregiver on the scene who knows how to deal with a sedated patient.

IV Sedation

When your child requires IV sedation, their anesthesiologist will carefully administer measured doses of both anti-anxiety medication and anesthetics so that your child is completely at ease for their dental treatment.


Since your child's doses will be determined on an individual basis and delivered with an IV line, this is a safe sedation option for kids who are anxious about undergoing dental surgery because their dosage can be adjusted as necessary for the desired level of sedation.


One benefit of IV sedation is that your child will have little to no recall of their dental procedure, so they should not retain any bad memories that can lead to fear later on. As mentioned earlier, we want your child to feel as comfortable as possible in the dental environment so that they form good habits that serve them into adulthood.


IV sedation involves the use of short-acting medications. So your child should wake up fairly soon after completion of their dental procedure. If there are any complications, most of the administered drugs can be reversed immediately.


General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is available for kids who cannot, due to age or maturity level, cooperate while receiving their needed dental care. It is important to note that there are some risks involving the use of general anesthesia. Although complications are rare, children need to be evaluated during their initial consultation, which may include a comprehensive medical exam and blood work.


General anesthesia is often appropriate for:

  • Infants

  • Children requiring extensive treatment

  • Extremely anxious children

  • Children with special needs or who are medically compromised

If your child is to receive general anesthesia, they will be provided with a medicine to put them into a deep sleep. The medication can be delivered via an IV line or may be inhaled. Your child may have a breathing tube inserted to protect their airway during their dental procedure.


Parental Consultation

It is completely understandable to have questions and concerns about kids sedation dentistry. As a parent, you feel a special obligation to be completely informed about every step of your child's needed dental procedure so that you can fulfill your responsibility in protecting them.


So don't hesitate to share any questions or concerns that you may have about any step that will be taken to treat your child. It may be helpful to write down your questions beforehand so that you don't forget anything during the consultation. This part of the process will help set your mind at ease so that your comfort level is translated to your child prior to their appointment, making the process go much more smoothly for everyone involved.


If you have any additional questions about your child's oral hygiene, please feel free to contact us at Urbana Pediatric Dentistry. We are here to help ensure that your child gets the best possible start with their oral hygiene.