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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dental sedation: options for pediatric patients

So your child needs a dental procedure, and you’re not sure he/she can sit still in the chair, or any chair,  for longer than five minutes. Plus, there’s the fear factor. You know this experience might set the tone for future dental visits, so you want it to go well. The dentist is suggesting using sedation techniques. What do you need to know?

Courtesy VCU School of Dentistry

We asked Tim Wilson, DDS, of Affiliated Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics and a Delta Dental provider to answer a few questions:

When should sedation be used for a child’s dental visit?

Dental sedation for a child is warranted when there are concerns whether a child can comfortably and safely get through a dental appointment.

Sit down with your pediatric dentist before any procedure and have a frank discussion about your goals and expectations for how the visit will go. You know your child better than anyone and your opinions are valuable when deciding whether or not sedation is necessary. Let the dentist know what you think about your child’s ability to tolerate a given procedure.

How will they handle getting an injection in the mouth area?  Do you think they will sit still for 45 minutes with their mouth open and allow someone clean out a cavity, place a filling or remove a tooth? Are you OK if your child should cry?

The dentist’s job is to accurately assess your child’s ability to cooperate, sit still, follow directions and complete the required treatment. The hygiene appointment is a helpful indicator. Was the child fussy or crying during a cleaning? Assessing past experiences can be useful, too.

What types of sedation are available for pediatric patients?

The most common forms of sedation include nitrous oxide or “laughing gas,” which the patient breathes in through the nose. Oral sedation comes in liquid form and can be given to a child in the waiting room. Intravenous sedation and general anesthesia are also options, depending on the procedure.

Each option has its own risks and benefits. Discuss these with your dentist when planning the treatment that your child requires. There is no “one size fits all” approach — treatment should be “tailor-made” to fit the needs of each individual patient.

Do all pediatric dentists offer sedation options to children? 

Pediatric dentistry is a specialty in the field of dentistry. We are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training in addition to the four years of dental school and limits his/her practice to treating children only. As part of our training we are exposed to many different sedation techniques.

But not all pediatric dentists offer the same sedation options. A pediatric dentist may choose to offer any of these techniques to their patient family based on his or her own past experiences, philosophies and comfort level.

The state of Arizona does require that a dentist pass a sedation evaluation in order to provide sedation in their office for their patients. Ask your dentist about their qualifications on an initial visit.

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Vicki Louk Balint

Vicki Louk Balint covers health topics for RAISING ARIZONA KIDS.

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