Dental Sedation In Small Children

For a dental procedure to be successful, patient cooperation becomes primordial. And when it comes to kids, even the simplest dental care procedures become very challenging. It is common for kids to have dental anxiety or fear of the dentist and it is the responsibility of the pediatrician to take care of it.

And this is where pediatric sedation dentistry comes into play. It is simply the use of calming drugs to ensure your child is able to go through dental procedures like dental surgery without fear or anxiety. This ensures the quality of dental treatment to cooperative and uncooperative children without any dental anxiety.

Why it is done?

Sedation dentistry is the use of sedative medications to help children relax or put to sleep so that the pediatric dentist can work quickly and effectively. It becomes necessary to go for dental sedation to deal with dental anxiety when other behavior management techniques like voice control, parental presence and distraction are not sufficient.

One of the important benefits of sedation dentistry is that it helps your child to overcome dental anxiety and have a pain-free dental surgery or procedure like when getting dental implants.

Once sedated, the child will be relaxed or asleep, and this makes them not feel any discomfort or pain that they may associate with a dentist. They would wake up with little or no memory of the dental procedure. And these help your kid feel better and help reduce their anxiety levels for their further visits to the dentist.

Types of Dental Sedation

The major types of dental sedation are Oral, Nitrous Oxide, and Intravenous sedation.

Oral sedation: The sedation is taken by mouth or through the nose as soon as you arrive at the dental clinic. The sedation effect is between mild to moderate depending on the dose. The sedatives typically start to work within 20 minutes. A lower dose would make your child feel drowsy and keeps them calm and relaxed during the procedure.

Nitrous oxide: Usually called as the laughing gas is a safe and mild sedative that helps your child remain calm. This type produces the mildest sedation effect. It takes effect within 5 minutes and is administered through a mask that delivers a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide. Your kid experiences euphoric or ‘happy’ feelings throughout the procedure as this mixture is given. Once the procedure ends, pure oxygen is given for 5 minutes to clear out any remaining gas.  

Also Read: What Are The Deleterious Effects Of Junk Food?

Intravenous (IV) sedation: This type of sedation involves inserting a needle into the vein of your child, usually on the back of the hand. The child is put to sleep using nitrous oxide before inserting the needle. The main advantage of this type of sedation is that the dentist can administer more medicine during long dental surgery to keep your child relaxed. The sedation takes effect much faster than Oral sedation and gives a moderate sedation effect.

Deep sedation: This is administered by inhaling a solution. And this type of sedation leaves your child with no memory of the procedure as your child will be completely asleep and unconscious. This is used for children with intense dental anxiety


  • For a safe sedation procedure, it is important to follow certain protocols and many factors should be weighed carefully. The pediatric dentist must choose the sedation method after carefully studying the child and his/her medical history.
  • Though minimal, there is always a risk of the child’s airway getting obstructed because of oversedation. And if they aren’t rescued in time, they could stop breathing and could even cause death. It is the responsibility of the dental staff to keep close track of the child’s important signs and recognize any problem with breathing or with the heart as quickly as possible.
  • The risks are particularly higher for certain children owing to a variety of factors like age and anatomy. For example, enlarged tonsils increase the chance of airway obstruction and such children must be handled with special care.
  • Similarly overweight and obese children also require special considerations as the sedative would get stored in the fat cells and might not be metabolized quickly leading to longer recovery time.
  • Kids under the age of six are at more risk as they have a smaller airway which could get easily blocked. Also, the blood of very young children would not have much oxygen reserves and short lapses in oxygen would not get compensated as in older children or adults.  


 Parents should be told the risks, benefits, and alternatives before considering sedation as an option for their kids. The sedative drugs should only be administered by doctors who are qualified anesthesia providers.

Tags: Child sedation dentistry side effects, Pediatric dental sedation deaths, Conscious sedation in dentistry

Photo of author

Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.