If your child needs multiple cavities filled or teeth pulled, their dentist may recommend doing these procedures under sedation or general anaesthetic. Parents should know the risks, benefits and alternatives before deciding which option is best for their child.

Why choose sedation dentistry?

Every child is unique and has specific requirements. Some children have a low pain threshold; others experience anxiety, fear, and stress while in a dentist’s chair. The good news is that sedation dentistry is an excellent option for some children.

How safe are anaesthesia and sedation for paediatric dental procedures?

In 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) revised the existing recommendations for administering deep sedation or general anaesthesia to children.

It demands at least two individuals be in the room who are trained to administer advanced life support in the case of an emergency. One will be the dentist or oral surgeon doing the treatment, while the other will be a physician anesthesiologist, a certified registered nurse anaesthetist, a second oral surgeon, or a dentist anaesthetist.

What different sedation options are available?

Here are the most common types of sedation dentists provide:

Mild sedation

Nitrous oxide is the least intrusive and mildest sedative for children. It is frequently known as “laughing gas” or “giggle gas.” Sedation is often used in older children. Because your child is awake, dentists and oral surgeons can safely administer these drugs during dental procedures.

Under mild sedation, children are drowsier and calmer but are often able to comply with the dentist or oral surgeon’s instructions. Dentists and oral surgeons can provide these drugs safely during dental procedures.

Deep sedation

With deep sedation, doctors use medications intravenously (IV) to assist your child to sleep through the treatment. Your child may not be able to breathe adequately on their own.

There must always be at least one qualified professional, such as an anesthesiologist, who can monitor your child’s heart rate, heart rhythm, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation (breathing) throughout the procedure and until they regain consciousness.

General anaesthesia

With general anaesthesia, your child will be fully unconscious and pain-free. A different dentist or oral surgeon will conduct the dental operation or surgery while specially-trained anaesthesia specialists administer and monitor your child’s drugs. Anaesthesia can be administered at an adequately equipped dental office or a hospital.

Good to know

A paediatric anesthesiologist is an anesthesiologist with at least one additional year of specialised training in anaesthesia for babies and children. Many children who require surgery have severe medical conditions that impact many body parts. The paediatric anesthesiologist has the skills and experience necessary to analyse these complicated issues and plan a safe anaesthesia for each child.

What to do before your child’s dental procedure

Before undergoing any dental treatment that involves sedation or anaesthesia, your child will require a physical assessment.

It is crucial that you inform the doctor if any of the following apply to your child:

  • Allergies, including food, drug, and latex allergies.
  • Medications being taken by your child. Don’t forget to inform your child’s doctor about any herbal, natural, or inhaled (breathed) medicines.
  • Problems with breathing, such as asthma, croup, or wheezing.
  • Recent illnesses, particularly severe colds and fevers.
  • Premature birth or birth deformities.
  • Heart issues.
  • Prior difficulties with anaesthesia or surgery, such as difficulties with the airway, falling asleep, or waking up after anaesthesia. Also, postoperative nausea and vomiting issues.
  • A history (on both sides of the family) of anaesthetic complications.
  • A history of bleeding disorders in the family.

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