What is Pediatric Conscious Sedation?

In dentistry (as well as other branches of medicine) pediatric conscious sedation is becoming more widespread than ever — but some people aren’t yet familiar with this beneficial therapy. Conscious sedation can remove anxiety and produce a feeling of calm and relaxation during dental treatment; however, unlike general anesthesia, it doesn’t cause the loss of consciousness. That means patients can still breathe normally and can respond to certain stimuli, while feelings of pain and anxiety are blocked.

Conscious sedation is often employed for invasive procedures such as tooth extractions or root canals — which cause some people a great deal of apprehension, no matter what their age. It can be especially useful for children, however, who may have a more limited ability to understand (and cooperate with) their dental treatment. Because the medications are commonly administered orally (by mouth), there’s no needle to provoke fear. And when it’s over, there is usually little or no memory of the procedure that was done.

Pediatric conscious sedation is typically administered in an office setting by a dentist with special qualifications. The American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have jointly established criteria for its use. Specialized training and continuing education are part of the qualification process; additionally, the dental office must be equipped with advanced life-support equipment and trained staff, who can help in the unlikely case of an emergency.

While your child is receiving conscious sedation, he or she will be monitored by a designated staff member who keeps a close watch on vital signs like blood pressure, oxygen levels, pulse rate and respiration. This helps to ensure that the level of sedation remains safe, yet effective. When the procedure is over, the medications wear off quickly; however, children will certainly need a ride home, and shouldn’t return to school until the next day.

As new medications are developed, more dentists receive special training, and the cost of associated equipment becomes more reasonable, the practice of pediatric conscious sedation is becoming more widespread. For many kids, it could mean the difference between having fearful childhood memories of the dental office that linger on through life — and remembering almost nothing at all.

If your child has dental anxiety or requires invasive procedures, pediatric conscious sedation may be a good option for you to consider. For more information, call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sedation Dentistry for Kids.”