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Sedation Dentistry for Children

In contrast to general anesthesia (which renders the child unconscious), dental sedation is only intended to reduce the child’s anxiety and discomfort during dental visits.  In some cases, the child may become drowsy or less active while sedated, but this will quickly desist after the procedure is completed.

When is sedation used?

Sedation is used in several circumstances.  Firstly, very young children are often unable to keep still long enough for the pediatric dentist to perform high-precision procedures safely.  Sedation makes the visit less stressful for both children and adults and vastly reduces the risk of injury.  Secondly, some children struggle to manage anxiety during dental appointments.  Sedation helps them to relax, cope, and feel happier about treatment.  Thirdly, sedation is particularly useful for children with special needs. It prevents spontaneous movement, and guides cooperative behavior.

What are the most common types of sedation?

Most pediatric dentists have several sedation options available, and each one comes with its own particular benefits.  The dentist will assess the medical history of the child, the expected duration of the procedure, and the child’s comfort level before recommending a method of sedation.

Conscious sedation allows children to continually communicate, follow instructions, and cooperate during the entire procedure.  The major methods of conscious sedation are described below:

Nitrous oxide - The pediatric dentist may recommend nitrous oxide (more commonly known as “laughing gas”) for children who exhibit particular signs of nervousness or anxiety.  Nitrous oxide is delivered via a mask, which is placed over the child’s nose.  Nitrous oxide is always combined with oxygen – meaning that the child can comfortably breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Laughing gas relaxes children extremely quickly, and can produce happy, euphoric behavior.  It is also quick acting, painless to deliver, and wears off within a matter of minutes.  Before removing the mask completely, the pediatric dentist delivers regular oxygen for several minutes, to ensure the nitrous oxide is eliminated from the child’s body.  On rare occasions, nitrous oxide may cause nausea. For this reason, most pediatric dentists suggest minimal food intake prior to the appointment.

Oral sedation - Children who are uncooperative, particularly anxious, or unable to control their muscles for prolonged periods, may be offered an oral sedative.  Oral sedatives come in many different forms (usually tablets, pills, and liquids), and may make the child feel drowsy.  If oral sedatives are to be used, the pediatric dentist may require parents to prepare the child before the appointment.  Some common preparatory measures may include: limiting food and fluid intake prior to the appointment, having the child wear comfortable clothing to the appointment, and preparing to stay with the child for several hours after the appointment.  Oral sedatives rarely produce serious side effects; nausea is among the most common.

Other forms of conscious sedation - Other less common ways to administer sedatives include intravenous (IV sedation), the use of suppositories, and even the use of a nasal spray.  In most cases, the method of delivery may change, but the chemical nature of the sedative remains the same.

What about general anesthetic?

General anesthetic (which puts the child in a deep sleep), is rarely used in dental work unless:

  • A procedure cannot otherwise be performed safely.
  • The child has a condition which limits cooperation or the ability to follow instructions.
  • The child needs a lengthy treatment.
  • The child needs more complex dental treatment or oral surgery.

General anesthetic requires more intensive preparation before the treatment and a longer period of recovery after the treatment.  Conscious sedation is usually favored wherever possible.

If you have questions or concerns about sedation techniques, please contact our practice.

Testimonials.

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Testimonials

If you want to know what I think of Dr. Afzali and her staff all you really need to know is that I live in Portland and I fly to San Diego to see Dr. Afzali for all my dental work. That might seem a bit extreme, and perhaps it is, but hear me out before you decide. A couple of years ago when I was living in the Bay Area I had to have one of my front teeth removed and dental implant inserted in its place by a dentist in the Bay Area. The implant looked a little shorter and darker than my other teeth, and even made my gum above it look a bit darker than the adjacent gum. In short, it didn't look natural. So I wasn't completely satisfied with how my smile looked, but I thought that was the best that could be done. It wasn't.

Last summer while I was in San Diego visiting my parents I went to Dr. Afzali for a routine cleaning. She examined my mouth and immediately asked me whether I was happy with the way my implant looked. When I said I wasn't, she explained that she could make it look better and possibly even indistinguishable from my other teeth. She was right. My implant looks just like my other teeth, and my gum is pink again. In fact, my new implant looks so natural that I sometimes forget it's an implant. I couldn't be happier. One final point. Dr. Afazli's entire staff is great. When I walk in they all make me feel like I'm the most important patient they have. And Julie is particularly great. Because I live in Portland my visits to Dr. Afzali's office had to me perfectly timed with receipt of the various parts necessary for my procedures. Julie made sure that everything arrived when necessary, without fail, so that no flights or appointments had to be rescheduled.

Riley P.

Recently, while on a trip from Canada to visit friends in San Diego, I broke a tooth. I phoned RB Dentistry and was given an appointment without delay. Dr. Mary Afzali was reassuring and professional and did an excellent job fixing the broken tooth. Her dental assistant, Marinette, was kind and gentle and made me feel comfortable throughout the procedure. Julie at Reception was welcoming, warm and made me laugh with her wonderful sense of humour and handled the insurance processing with no complications. Thank you so much Dr. Afzali, Mari and Julie for one of the most pleasant dental appointments I've had in a long time! Hope to see you in Vancouver, B.C. sometime!

Pam C.

I know I am in good hands with Dr. Afzali at RB Family Dentistry. The cavity fillings and tooth root fillings I got there were done so well that when I went to the Southwest College Dental Hygenist school to help out a friend, they could barely even detect the fillings! The teachers there were very impressed. At RB Family Dentistry, the staff and hygenists are friendly, organized and very knowledgable, and the Dr. always gives me as much time as I need and answers all of my questions. The office is beautiful and state-of-the-art. They never try to sell me on additional products or services that I don't need.

Scripps Ranch M

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RB Family & Cosmetic Dentistry
16776 Bernardo Center Dr. #105 San Diego, CA 92128
Phone: (858) 485-0044 URL of Map