In contrast to general anaesthesia (which renders the child unconscious), dental sedation is only intended to reduce the child’s anxiety and discomfort during dental visits. In some cases, the child may become drowsy or less active while sedated, but this will quickly pass after the procedure is completed.

When is sedation used?

Sedation is used by dentists in several circumstances. Firstly, very young children are often unable keep still for long enough for a pediatric dentist 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 behaviour.

What are the most common types of sedation?

There are several sedation options available, and each one comes with its own particular benefits. Dentist Dr Kozlowski 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:

Nitrous oxide – Dr Kozlowski may recommend nitrous oxide (more commonly known as “laughing gas”) for children who exhibit particular signs of nervousness or anxiety. Nitrous oxide is delivered via a mask, which is placed over the child’s nose. Nitrous oxide is always combined with oxygen – meaning that the child can comfortably breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Types of dental sedation for children can include oral, nitrous oxide (commonly referred to as laughing gas) and iv sedation that must be administered by a specialist dentist.

Sedation Dentistry for Children

Laughing gas relaxes children extremely quickly, and can produce happy, euphoric behavior. It is also quick acting, painless to deliver, and wears off within a matter of minutes. Before removing the mask completely, the dentist delivers regular oxygen for two minutes, to ensure the nitrous oxide is eliminated from the child’s body. On rare occasions, nitrous oxide may cause nausea. For this reason, minimal food intake is recommended prior to the appointment.

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 – intravenous dental sedation (IV sedation) is an extremely effective method of sedation and is available for children aged 16 yrs and older.

What about general anaesthetic?

General anaesthetic (which renders the child unconscious), is most often used in dental work for very young children. With older children general anaesthetic can be used 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 anaesthetic requires more intensive preparation before the treatment and a longer period of recovery after the treatment. Conscious sedation is usually favoured wherever possible.

    If you have questions or concerns about sedation techniques, please email us or call 92012744

    Dr Richard Kozlowski is Perth’s most experienced sedation dentist and many Perth dental practices actually contract him to complete the sedation procedure on their behalf, so if you have any queries you can be confident you are asking the right person.

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