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Sometimes a child's level of comfort with the dental office environment does not permit treatment while conscious.  Alternatively, the number of teeth needing treatment may simply be too much for a child to tolerate awake.  Anxiety, pain levels, and past dental experiences are important factors in this dynamic.  In these cases, sedation or general anesthesia are important treatment options that can facilitate safe completion of treatment while minimizing negative dental experiences.  We are pleased to offer our patients the option of comfortable, safe, and effective sedation dentistry. Patients who benefit from sedation dentistry may have:

  • A fear or anxiety of being at the dentist
  • A hard time sitting still for long periods of time
  • A hard time getting (and staying) numb from anesthetics

What is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry allows our pediatric specialists to provide a variety of dental procedures safely and comfortably for children & teenagers who experience anxiety when visiting the dentist. There are several benefits of sedation dentistry, including:

  • No memory of undergoing the procedure
  • No sense of time while under sedation
  • No sense of smell or sound
  • No fear or anxiety during treatment

I'm nervous about my child being unconscious. What levels of sedation are available?

Sedation dentistry is closely regulated by California law, and the training that our pediatric dentists have completed has provided them with plentiful experience to administer sedation safely.  There are three sedative states at which are administered in our practice: mild sedation, moderate sedation, and general anesthesia.

  • Mild Sedation - Anxiolysis is the lightest form of sedation dentistry and is often used for patients with mild anxiety, longer procedures or more complex situations. Mild sedation is usually administered orally; you remain awake or very sleepy throughout the entire procedure and are able to breathe on your own, but you will feel a great sense of relaxation. Patients typically recover from anxiolysis sedation within a few hours after the procedure is complete. Nitrous oxide inhalation (laughing gas) is another form of mild sedation where you are very relaxed during treatment.
  • Oral Conscious (moderate) Sedation - Used for patients with moderate dental anxiety and for patients who need longer or more complex procedures, oral conscious sedation refers to the use of sedative medications administered orally. With oral conscious sedation, the child is usually awake & responsive during the procedure, but may drift into a sleepy state at times.  It is recommended that patients receiving conscious sedation have a parent, spouse, or friend accompany them to appointments because it can take several hours for the sedative to wear off and driving may be unsafe.
  • General anesthesia- Patients being treated under general anesthesia are completely unconsciousness during their dental procedure and have no recollection of the treatment. An anesthesiologist is present at all times, administering the anesthesia and monitoring the child's vitals while the pediatric dentist focuses on the mouth and teeth.  It is recommended that patients receiving general anesthesia be accompanied at the appointment by two adults. It can take several hours for the sedative medications used during general anesthesia to wear off, during which time the child must be closely monitored.  General anesthesia can be completed in the comfort of our office, or in a local hospital.

How are sedatives administered?

  • Inhalation – Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is the most frequently used method for easing mild to moderate anxiety. Recovery is quick so you can resume your normal activities immediately.
  • Oral – An extremely common technique for dental sedation is oral sedation. It's easy and doesn't require the use of needles. Your child will be given a sedative liquid or tablet, taken prior to starting procedures, relaxing the child by the time treatment begins.
  • Intravenous (IV) - In IV sedation, a sedative is administered intravenously, or directly into a vein. The sedation can be quickly modified to your state of consciousness and can be continued as long as necessary for the procedure.

What does it mean to be a licensed sedation provider?

A heathcare provider who is licensed to administer oral concious sedation or general anesthesia has received additional specialty training beyond dental or medical school.  They are legally certified by the State of California's Dental or Medical Board to deliver sedative drugs that alter a patient's consciousness in order to facilitate comfortable treatment with minimal anxiety.

Please contact our practice to schedule a consultation, learn more about sedation dentistry, and find out which sedation dentistry method is right for your child.