Dental Sedation and Your Child: What You Need to Know

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, has been safely used in sedation dentistry for over a century. It can be especially helpful with the treatment of children, who often have a difficult time tolerating most dental procedures. But with all of the sedation-gone-wrong stories in the news, and a general lack of knowledge, it’s understandable why parents might be wary of the process.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recently released a series of questions that parents and guardians should ask their dentist regarding the use of in-office sedation. Concerns about the treatment can be addressed before, during and after the procedure.

Prior to the procedure:

  • Who will be providing the preoperative evaluation of my child? Will the evaluation include past medical history, current prescription medications and previous illnesses and hospitalizations?
  • What is the recommended time that my child should be without food or beverage before the procedure? Can they still take necessary medications?
  • Will any sedation medication be given to my child at home? If so, how should they be monitored?
  • What training and experience does the sedation/anesthesia provider have in providing the level of sedation that is planned for this procedure? Does this training and experience meet all of the standards of the ADA Guidelines for the Use of Sedation and General Anesthesia by Dentists?
  • Does the staff assisting the procedure have current training in emergency resuscitation procedures, such as Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers? Is this training regularly renewed?
  • Does the state dental board require a special sedation/anesthesia permit or license that allows for the provider to administer this specific level of sedation or anesthesia in the dental office?

During the procedure:

  • In addition to the use of local anesthesia (numbing), what level of sedation or general anesthesia will be given to my child? Is it minimal sedation (relaxed and awake), moderate sedation (sleepy but awake), deep sedation (barely awake) or general anesthesia (unconscious)?
  • How will my child be monitored before, during and after the procedure until released to go home? Are the appropriate emergency medications and equipment immediately available if needed? Does the office have a written emergency response plan for managing medical emergencies?

After the procedure:

  • Will the sedation/anesthesia provider give me instructions and emergency contact information if there are any concerns or complications after returning home?

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