Getting kids into dentists’ chairs, and keeping them there, is so large a challenge that an entire field, pediatric dentistry, has developed around it. Fortunately, advances in science and technology make a child’s trip to the dentist as uneventful and painless as getting a haircut. Sedation dentistry and other innovations can make your child’s next visit a breeze.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), pediatric sedation dentistry helps to control behavior, calm patients and speed up dental procedures.
While older children and adults can endure discomfort and pain, and control their reactions, younger children cannot be expected to cooperate. As a parent, you play a role in making the visit easier by realizing your child’s limitations, and being open to the suggestions of your dental professionals regarding sedation.
AAPD describes three distinct levels of sedation:
Minimal—your child receives a medication to relax her, but she can still respond to directions
Moderate—your child will receive medication that depresses her consciousness, but she can still respond to instructions and tactile stimulation (touches); your child experiences no loss of consciousness
Deep—here your child will be deeply asleep, and the effects of the medications require ample time to wear off so your child is not conscious through any painful procedure; this is equivalent to general anesthesia
With each of these prescribed levels of sedation dentistry, your child is monitored constantly through several technological innovations:
Pulse oximetry—monitor’s your child’s oxygen saturation in the blood
Capnography—monitoring your child’s expired carbon dioxide
Airway—supplemental oxygen, a laryngeal mask airway (LMA), cuffed oropharyngeal airway or endotracheal intubation can help your child
In addition, the rise of lasers for treating pediatric dental issues has shortened the time your child has to stay in the dentist’s chair and reduced stress in young patients. Lasers, according to AAPD, often require no sedation and are effective in both soft tissue and hard tissue applications, such as:
- removing pigmented lesions
- cutting, coagulating and removing soft tissue
- removing caries (tooth decay)
What to Expect with Pediatric Sedation Dentistry
No dentist adhering to the American Dental Association’s guidelines for anesthesia would think of treating your child unless fully prepared, properly trained, and having a complete range of emergency equipment readily available. You can trust that your dental professional has the recommended immediately available facilities, personnel and equipment to manage sedation and any unexpected effects of sedation.
Minimal sedation techniques, reliable as they are and fully augmented by technological advances, can cause some children to fall unexpectedly into a deeper, moderate level of sedation. Your child’s dentist is trained to recognize any issues with sedation dentistry and act quickly and capably to safeguard your child.
Your child’s dentist may ask for thorough documentation, including informed consent. Expect complete instructions about preparing your child for the visit, including dietary considerations. For very young children, you may be provided with information about immobilization devices, such as papoose boards, to make your visit easier and faster.