Why Should I Consider Sedating My Child For Dental Treatment?

Our desire is to try to make every dental visit as positive as possible for children so that they do not grow up with a fear of the dentist. Using a mild sedative can create a higher degree of acceptance of treatment, can raise the pain threshold so the perception of any discomfort is   diminished, and can greatly extend the child’s ability to sit still for longer periods of time.  All these things lead to a more positive experience for the child, and the ability of the dentist to provide the highest quality of care.  The child is usually awake and responsive throughout the procedure but is less likely to become agitated than if not sedated. Sedating a patient is normally a very safe procedure. The dosages of oral sedatives that we use are based upon the age, size, and weight of the child. For healthy children, risks associated with mild to moderate sedation are small. 

Alternatives to Sedation –

  • Do nothing—This is usually not a suitable alternative, in that the cavities will almost always grow larger. Sometimes the application of a fluoride solution can slow or stop cavities from growing for a time.
  • Attempt treatment with no sedation- Usually not a good option, and for many children, not an option at all. If they will not sit still for an examination and x-rays, it is unlikely they will cooperate with treatment without some type of stabilizing or restraining method involved, which is not recommended for elective treatment.
  • Put the child to sleep in an outpatient surgical center (general anesthesia) – An anesthesiologist puts the child to sleep and all treatment is done in one visit. For very young children, children with health issues such as asthma, autism, snoring or sleep apnea, moderate to severe developmental delay or behavioral issues, or children who are significantly over-weight, or who require a lot of treatment this may be the only method recommended.

Please feel free to further discuss any of these alternatives with your dentist.

Are oral sedations always effective?

Our experience is that for most children the dosages of medication that we use are effective in creating a cooperative child. However, there are some children who do not experience a level of sedation that will allow treatment to be completed. They take the normal dosage, wait the appropriate time for the medicine to take effect, and still are very uncooperative. In these instances, no attempt at treatment will be done, no additional drugs will be given, and consideration for a general anesthesia procedure will be discussed.