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What Drug Is Used for Pediatric Sedation Dentistry?

As a parent, it’s natural for you to feel anxious and protective of your children. When it’s time for dental procedures for your kids, these feelings are heightened. You can counter this anxiety by learning more about the treatments and how to prepare for them. Sedation dentistry is frequently used by pediatric dentists like those at Ashburn Children’s Dentistry in Ashburn, VA to make simple dental procedures easier for children.

Sedation dentistry is especially suitable for children who are extra nervous or have special needs. It can also be used for long or complicated procedures. A sedative mixture is administered in one of three different ways to help keep the child calm throughout the procedure. As a parent, knowing as much as you can about dental procedures, including sedation, can help you feel more confident and communicate this confidence to your child.

What Is Sedation Dentistry?

As a parent, the more you know about the procedures, the better you are prepared to help your child through the process. Sedation dentistry uses medications to keep a patient calm during dental procedures. The mild sedatives used have a calming effect, which helps to reduce anxiety and fear. They help to put the patient in a relaxed state, which makes the dental procedure both easier and safer.

Most sedatives used are not strong enough to send the patient off to sleep. They are also not a substitute for painkillers, which will be injected separately after the sedatives take effect. The sedatives last throughout the procedure and beyond, for about six hours.

When Is Sedation Dentistry Used?

In recent years, it has been used widely in pediatric dentistry for children who have a high level of fear or who cannot sit still because of special needs or some other reason. It is also used when long or complicated procedures are being done, or for children who have a strong gag reflex that will interfere with the treatment. Sedatives are also used when multiple procedures have to be done in a single visit.

The pediatric dentist will make an individual evaluation for each child to ensure his or her suitability for sedation. It’s important for the parent or guardian to provide the dentist with a full list of any other medications the child may be taking as well as a complete medical history in order to avoid any problems. Any health problems that may affect the process should also be discussed in advance.

Benefits of Sedation Dentistry

Sedation makes the procedure easier for children because they don’t notice it at all. It also helps dentists by allowing them to work more quickly and freely. It also allows dentists to do their best work without being hampered by the patient’s fears and responses to the treatment. This can reduce the number of visits required for the treatment, which benefits the child and parents as well.

Some sedatives also produce a mild amnesiac effect, which means that when the child wakes up, there will be no memory of the treatment. This can help children overcome their fear of a visit to the dentist’s office and inculcate lifelong good dental habits. And when your child no longer dreads going to the dentist, your job as a parent is made that much easier.

Types of Sedation Drugs

There are a number of safe and mild sedatives available in modern sedation dentistry. The dentist will choose the one best suited for your child. The choice will also depend on the dental procedure to be carried out. Pediatric sedation is regulated by state regulations as well as national guidelines issued by the American Dental Association. The goal is to use the mildest medication that will wear off quickly.

One of the most commonly used oral sedatives in pediatric dentistry is Midazolam, better known by the trade name Versed. It also causes amnesia for the period under sedation so the patient has no memory for the treatment.

How Are Sedation Drugs Administered?

There are three methods of administering sedatives, which can be given orally, through inhalation, or through an IV line. The best type of sedation for each case is decided by the dentist in consultation with a qualified anesthesiologist. Sedation is done in the dentist’s office, and all three kinds of sedation require some preparation at home beforehand.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide is more famously known by the name of laughing gas, and it has been used as a sedative in dentistry for a long time. It is administrated by inhalation through a face mask which delivers a mixture of oxygen and laughing gas. Nitrous oxide has a faintly sweet smell and takes effect in about five minutes. The patient is asked to breathe through the nose and to avoid breathing through the mouth.

The mask remains in place for the entire duration of the procedure and continues to deliver the mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. For the last five minutes, the mixture is replaced with pure oxygen, which clears any remaining nitrous oxide out of the patient’s system.

This is a very mild and safe sedative. The patient does not lose consciousness but passes the time under sedation in a happy and drowsy state.

How to Prepare for Nitrous Oxide:

The child should have a light meal in the morning before the procedure, like toast or a bowl of cereal.

Orally-Administered Sedatives

These are ingested through the mouth or nose and are used for children who might be nervous about using a face mask. An oral sedative may also be given by placing it under the tongue. These sedatives take effect in about 20 minutes and produce a drowsy effect. This means that the patient will be relaxed but conscious throughout the procedure and can follow simple directives to open the mouth or turn the head.

Oral sedatives are typically given to the child in the waiting room on arrival. When they have begun to take effect, the patient is moved to the treatment room and the procedure is started.

How to Prepare for Oral Sedatives

If your child will be given an oral sedative, he or she must not eat or drink anything after midnight on the day before the procedure.

Sedation Through an IV Line

An IV line connected through a needle in the patient’s arm or hand is used to deliver larger amounts of sedative for long procedures. IV sedation puts the patient in a sleeping state and is used for complex treatments for trauma or tooth decay. The patient is kept under close supervision throughout by a board-certified M.D. anesthesiologist as well as the pediatric dentist and other dental staff.

How to Prepare for IV-Administered Sedation

A child who will have a procedure under an IV-administered sedative must not take any food or any liquids that are not clear after midnight on the night before the appointment. This includes drinks like formula, milk, fruit juice with pulp, and coffee. Clear liquids like water, Pedialyte, Koolaid, and clear fruit juice may be given until two hours before the procedure. Any regular medications the child takes should be cleared by the doctor or a nurse.

Once the sedative begins to take effect, the patient becomes drowsy and the procedure can begin. At this stage, the parent or guardian may be asked to leave the room to clear the space for the dental staff to work. The patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and blood oxygen levels are all monitored constantly while under sedation.

How to Help Your Child Through the Process

When you know the different types of sedation and how to prepare for them, you will feel much more confident about the procedure, and your confidence will communicate itself to your child. Pediatric dentist offices are designed to be cheerful and friendly places, with plenty of toys and pictures to keep children occupied until it’s time for the treatment to start. Staff are also trained to help children feel relaxed and comfortable.

If there are any special needs or conditions that will affect the process of sedation, you should discuss these with the anesthesiologist or dentist before it starts. A cold or stuffy nose will make it impossible to administer laughing gas through a face mask, and the procedure will have to be rescheduled.

You can stay with your child while the sedative is being administered until it takes effect and it’s time for the treatment to begin. You can help your child undergo sedation by bringing along a favorite toy or blanket to hold as the sedation takes effect. You can also hold your child’s hand and talk or sing for comfort. Some dentists will allow a parent to stay in the treatment room during the procedure, especially if it is a simple one.

Follow-Up Care

Following the procedure, as the sedative begins to wear off, you will be called into the recovery area as your child starts to wake up. The length of time it takes for a child to become fully alert varies, and some may wake feeling confused. A child coming out of a sedative may feel confused or nauseous. Some dizziness and grogginess are also normal symptoms of waking up. The child should spend the rest of the day quietly at home instead of school or daycare.

Following sedation and dental treatment, some aftercare will be needed at home while your child recovers. For an hour or two, the nose, mouth and throat area may remain numb. For a few hours after the treatment, the child should only eat soft foods. It’s better to keep your child at home for the rest of the day after treatment.

The dentist office may schedule follow-up visits for further treatment or to check on progress.


Sedation dentistry is widely used by pediatric dentists for children who are very anxious or unable to sit still for long periods of time. It is also used for long or complex procedures. Sedatives can be administered in different ways. They work by putting the patient in a state of drowsiness or deep relaxation, which enables the dentist to complete the procedure quickly and efficiently.

Sedation also produces a mild amnesiac effect, which means that the child will have no memory of the treatment and will consequently suffer less anxiety over the next visit. If your child is especially afraid of going to the dentist but needs some treatment, sedation dentistry may be a good choice. Call Ashburn Children’s Dentistry in Ashburn, VA, to schedule an initial consultation.

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