Some children can become anxious when they see the dentist. As a result, they may not be able to relax or sit still long enough to receive treatment.
The dentist may suggest giving these children a form of medicine that can help them to relax and/or become sleepy. This is called "conscious sedation." Using conscious sedation may allow a child to become more relaxed. But the child will be able to respond to voices or stimulation and will maintain his or her protective reflexes.
Conscious sedation may be used when a child requires a lot of dental treatment or has special needs. Your dentist can recommend which type of conscious sedation may be best for your child. Conscious sedation may be given in several ways, including:
- Inhaling a gas
- Swallowing medicine in the form of a syrup or a pill.
- Receiving medicine though a shot (injection)
- Receiving medicine through a vein (intravenously)
Nitrous oxide is also known as laughing gas. It is often used for children who are mildly or moderately anxious or nervous. It eases their fears so that they can relax. This helps them to receive treatment in a comfortable and safe manner.
Nitrous oxide is mixed with oxygen and delivered through a small mask over the nose. Your child will be asked to breathe through the nose and not through the mouth. As the gas begins to work, the child usually will become less agitated and nervous.
The effects of nitrous oxide are mild. It is safe and quickly eliminated from the body. Your child remains awake and can continue to interact with the dentist. When the gas is turned off, the effects wear off very quickly. The dentist will give your child oxygen for a few minutes after treatment. This helps to flush the child's body of any remaining gas.
Sometimes young children may reject wearing the mask. Nitrous oxide may not be the right type of sedation for them. In addition, nitrous oxide can sometimes make a child feel nauseous. Before a dental visit using this form of conscious sedation, it is best to feed your child only liquids or a light meal a few hours beforehand. Also, if your child is congested or has trouble breathing through the nose on the day of treatment, nitrous oxide may be less effective.
You may need to carry your child home after sedation. Your dentist also should discuss how your child will be monitored during sedation. You will need to stay for a short time after dental treatment has been completed. During this time, your child will be observed. The dental staff will make sure recovery is complete and look out for any problems.