Treating pediatric patients and patients with special needs can be very challenging. In certain circumstances, behavior management techniques alone can be inadequate to safely and successfully treat our patients. In these cases, there are several different forms of sedation that can be of help:
Often referred to as “laughing gas”, nitrous oxide is a very safe and mild form of sedation. It involves wearing a nasal hood (a small mask over the nose) through the entire length of the procedure. Its effects are reversible after breathing oxygen for a few minutes and patients can return to school afterwards. It does not “knock out” a patient, and requires a certain level of cooperation. It works best on children age 4 and over, who have mild anxiety, or just have numerous appointments.
Oral Sedation is a deeper form of sedation that involves drinking a medication at the office, waiting for it to take effect, and then combining it with nitrous oxide to help complete dental treatment. There is a brief recovery time when treatment is completed before the patient is allowed to return home, with the overall appointment time being about 3 hours. Children should not return to school afterwards and should be closely supervised as some of the effects can last for several hours. Oral sedation can work on patients who have had bad experiences at other dental offices or who require extensive dental work. It is not very successful on children who are combative, very young, or unable to tolerate taking oral medications. It works best on children age 4 and over, who have moderate levels of anxiety or numerous, extensive dental appointments.
Intravenous sedation is a very deep level of sedation that is accomplished with the help of an anesthesiologist. We are happy to have Dr. Patrick McCarty provide this service to our patients in our office. At this level of sedation, patients are “knocked out” and all of the patient’s treatment needs can be met in one visit, including taking radiographs. The patient is brought back to the treatment room, where they breathe through a mask until they fall asleep, after which an IV is started to keep the patient asleep through the entire procedure. After a brief recovery period, patients are discharged to home, where they should recover for the rest of the day. Patients are able to resume normal activities the next day. IV sedation is recommended for patients age 2 and over who are healthy, or have minor medical conditions.
General anesthesia is the deepest level of sedation and is used for most types of medical surgeries. It is performed in a hospital setting and allows for all of the patient’s treatment needs to be met in one visit. It is recommended for very young children, uncooperative children, and patients with special healthcare needs.We see our patients at Franciscan Hospital for Children.