Conscious Sedation Dentistry

We believe that all children should be able to achieve excellent oral health free from fear of pain or harsh treatment.  Most children do well in the dental office with behavioral guidance from our doctors and staff.  However, some children, due to fear, inability to understand, or due to willful resistance, cannot cooperate sufficiently to allow needed dental procedures to be accomplished.

In these cases, conscious sedation or general anesthesia need to be considered to complete the necessary dental treatment.  If, after consultation with your child’s dentist, it has been determined that conscious sedation is a good option to care for your child, you should know what to expect, the limitations of this technique, and the potential risks of sedation medication.

Oral conscious sedation will be administered to your child by giving them a small amount of liquid sedative medication by mouth.  Once the medication has begun to work, the effect will be enhanced by breathing nitrous oxide (laughing gas).  When ideal results are achieved with sedation, your child will be awake and aware of his/her surroundings (though they may not remember these things after the appointment.)  Sometimes your child may appear to drift off to sleep or may have some altered behavior such as you would see in an inebriated adult.  Children who are usually frightened by noises or new situations will tend to handle things in a more calm fashion.  This technique tends to work best with children who are generally very cooperative, but who are unable to do so in the dental environment due to situational anxiety.

Although we always hope for the best results, the use of conscious sedation does not guarantee success and has significant limitations.   After receiving the appropriate safe dose, many children may still be sufficiently uncooperative to prevent treatment.  Children who approach dental treatment with a willful, combative attitude or are terrified tend to be poor candidates for sedation. These children frequently become even more agitated when given light sedation.  Children with certain medical conditions such as ADD or ADHD can actually have  worsened behaviors from sedative medications. All of these factors will be considered when assessing whether or not your child would benefit from an oral conscious sedation procedure.