Pediatric Dentistry
Sedation Dentistry for Children

When is sedation used?

Sedation is used in several circumstances.  Firstly, very young children are often unable to keep still long enough for our dental team to perform high-precision procedures safely.  Sedation makes the visit less stressful for both children and adults and vastly reduces the risk of injury.  Secondly, some children struggle to manage anxiety during dental appointments.  Sedation helps them to relax, cope, and feel happier about treatment.  Thirdly, sedation is particularly useful for children with special needs. It prevents spontaneous movement, and guides cooperative behavior.

What are the most common types of sedation?

Most pediatric dentists and general dentists with anesthesia licensure have several sedation options available, and each one comes with its own particular benefits.  Our dental team will assess the medical history of the child, the expected duration of the procedure, and the child’s comfort level before recommending a method of sedation.

Conscious sedation allows children to continually communicate, follow instructions, and cooperate during the entire procedure.  The major methods of conscious sedation are described below:

Oral sedation - Children who are uncooperative, particularly anxious, or unable to control their muscles for prolonged periods, may be offered an oral sedative.  Oral sedatives come in many different forms (usually tablets, pills, and liquids), and may make the child feel drowsy.  If oral sedatives are to be used, the pediatric dentist may require parents to prepare the child before the appointment.  Some common preparatory measures may include: limiting food and fluid intake prior to the appointment, having the child wear comfortable clothing to the appointment, and preparing to stay with the child for several hours after the appointment.  Oral sedatives rarely produce serious side effects; nausea is among the most common.

Other forms of conscious sedation - Other less common ways to administer sedatives include intravenous (IV sedation), the use of suppositories, and even the use of a nasal spray.  In most cases, the method of delivery may change, but the chemical nature of the sedative remains the same.

What about general anesthetic?

General anesthetic (which puts the child in a deep sleep), is used in dentistry when:

  • A procedure cannot otherwise be performed safely.
  • The child has a condition which limits cooperation or the ability to follow instructions.
  • The child needs a lengthy treatment.
  • The child needs more complex dental treatment or oral surgery.

General anesthetic requires more intensive preparation before the treatment and a longer period of recovery, usually the same day as the procedure, after the treatment. 

If you have questions or concerns about sedation techniques, please contact our practice.


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