Sedation dentistry refers to the use of sedation during dental treatment. Sedation is most commonly used during extensive procedures, for patients with dental phobia or for patients who find it difficult to sit still. There are different types of sedation, including nitrous oxide ("laughing gas"), IV sedation, oral sedatives and general anesthetic.

Sedation can range from the use of nitrous oxide to calm a patient to general anesthetics used to put patients to sleep. Patients with dental phobia, low pain tolerance, major dental treatment, physical handicaps or strong gag reflexes may require sedation. Procedures like fillings, crowns, bridges, root canals, extractions, cosmetic procedures and periodontal treatments often require sedation.

Sedation is endorsed by the American Dental Association and is an effective way to make many patients comfortable during their dental visit. Before using a sedative or anesthetic, it is important to tell your pediatric dentist about any medications or medical treatments your child is receiving. Before administering any sedative or anesthetic, your pediatric dentist will talk to you about the process of sedation and pre- and post-sedation instructions.

Nitrous Oxide/"Laughing Gas"

Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, is often used as a conscious sedative during a dental visit. The gas is administered with a mixture of oxygen and has a calming effect that helps phobic or anxious patients relax during their dental treatment. Because it is a mild sedative, patients are still conscious and can talk to their pediatric dentist during their visit. After treatment, the nitrous is turned off and oxygen is administered for five to 10 minutes to help flush any remaining gas. The effects wear off almost immediately. Nitrous oxide rarely has side effects, although some patients may experience minor nausea and constipation. Your pediatric dentist will provide you with pre- and post-sedation instructions.

Oral Sedation

Occasionally, we use extra medicine to help a child tolerate longer or difficult procedures. The medicine is used to help dissociate the child from the procedure for better results and to help the child forget. We feel that sedation should be done safely or not at all, so if there are extensive cavities, your child might be better suited for treatment in the hospital.

Hospital Dentistry

When treatment time is very long and there is extensive work involved, children are better treated in a hospital setting. There is an anesthesiologist in charge of the anesthesia, and the dentist repairs the teeth in a controlled an ideal setting. Almost all families who fear going to the hospital for treatment are alleviated once treatment has been completed. Your child will not remember any of the dental treatment and can maintain a positive attitude toward visiting the dentist. The anesthesiologists are trained in dealing with children in a gentle, caring manner. Please see our Hospital Dentistry page for more information.

Please refer to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry for more information.