Is your child afraid of going to their pediatric dentist? Unfortunately, that fear can linger and even worsen into adulthood.  

The number of patients who schedule regular dental visits declines as they get older. While 86.9% of children visited a dentist in the past year, only 64.1% of adults scheduled a visit. About 25.9% of these adults ages 20 to 44 have untreated dental caries.

Help your child maintain healthy teeth with pediatric sedation dentistry. What can you expect from an appointment? Read on to learn more.

What Is Sedation Dentistry?

The sound of a dental drill or the glare of a medical exam light overhead could trigger your child’s anxiety. Having one unpleasant experience could make them afraid of going to the dentist later.

If your child suffers from dental anxiety, their pediatric dentist may recommend sedation. Pediatric sedation can relax your child while they receive dental work. 

Also called sleep dentistry, sedation dentistry is ideal for both children and adults. The pediatric dentist will administer medication before your child’s procedure.

Common types of sedation dentistry include:

  • Oral sedation
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Intravenous (IV) sedation

Your child will remain comfortable and relaxed during their appointment. This allows their pediatric dentist to focus on their dental care.

Who Needs Sedation Dentistry?

Remember, sedation dentistry isn’t only for children. It’s an ideal option for patients with:

  • Feelings of claustrophobia
  • A fear of visiting the dentist
  • Dental anxiety
  • A fear of needles
  • Decreased sensitivity to local anesthesia
  • Extreme teeth sensitivity
  • An overly sensitive gag reflex
  • Special needs (behavioral, cognitive, or physical)
  • Difficulty controlling movements

Talk to your child’s pediatric dentist before their next appointment. The dentist will determine if your child is an ideal candidate for sedation.

Every child is unique. Your pediatric dentist may recommend relaxation or behavioral techniques first. If these techniques aren’t effective, they may recommend sedation.

Benefits of Pediatric Sedation

Your pediatric dentist will help you review the pros and cons of different types of sedation. Here are a few general benefits to consider:

Improves Long-Term Oral Health

Failing to ease your child’s dental anxiety now could affect their dental health in the future. Between 50 and 80% of adults in the US have some degree of dental anxiety. About 20% of these patients don’t receive regular dental care.

Another 9 to 15% avoid care altogether. Of these patients, about 20% have high dental anxiety.

Choosing pediatric sedation dentistry will ensure your child receives the dental care they need. Over time, they may grow used to visiting the dentist. They’ll recognize they have nothing to fear.

Otherwise, their dental anxiety will linger into adulthood. They may avoid seeking regular dental care. Failing to maintain healthy teeth can lead to overall health complications. 

High levels of dental anxiety are associated with poor clinical oral health status. Compared to other patients, patients with high dental anxiety have:

  • More decayed teeth and surfaces
  • Gum health problems
  • Dental erosion
  • More missing teeth
  • Fewer filled teeth

These problems can affect their self-esteem, ability to chew and speak, or digestion. Tooth decay could cause an infection, which can travel through the bloodstream. Your child’s risk of stroke, diabetes, and other serious health problems could increase.

Reduces Anxiety

Sedation can ease your child’s anxiety during a medical procedure. They won’t focus on the medical tools the dentist is using.

Keeping them relaxed during an appointment can make it easier for the dentist to provide treatment. Otherwise, your child may not sit still during the exam or procedure. 

Better Outcomes

Sedation dentistry allows dentists to perform procedures effectively and efficiently. This leads to better patient outcomes and reduces the risk of complications.

Keeping your child sedated can increase everyone’s safety during a procedure. If your child is squirming in the dentist’s chair, they could get hurt.

Types of Sedation

Dentists recommend different types of sedation based on each patient’s unique needs. The dentist will consider your child’s:

  • Level of anxiety
  • Health history
  • Procedure (and duration)

Nitrous Oxide

You likely know nitrous oxide better as “laughing gas.” This type of sedation is a mix of two types of gases: nitrous oxide and oxygen.

Before the procedure, your child will breathe in while wearing a small mask. The sedative will help them relax but won’t put them to sleep.

Benefits of this type of sedation include:

  • Safe and effective
  • Mild
  • Easily taken
  • Quickly eliminated from the body
  • Non-addictive

The nitrous oxide should wear off after a few seconds or minutes. The dentist can give your child pure oxygen to remove any lingering gas. This allows your child to resume normal activity after their appointment.

While it’s safe for kids, possible side effects include headaches and nausea. This only occurs in 5% of patients. 

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation involves taking a pill. It will decrease activity in the area of the brain that regulates fear and anxiety. Your child will remain awake during the procedure.

Benefits of this type of sedation include:

  • Easy to administer
  • No needles
  • Safe and effective
  • Responsiveness during the procedure
  • Little to no memory of the procedure

However, this type of sedation isn’t immediately effective. Dentists also can’t easily change sedation levels when necessary.


Intravenous (IV) sedation dentistry is the deepest form of conscious sedation available. The dentist will deliver the medication directly into your child’s bloodstream.

Benefits include:

  • Ideal for lengthy procedures
  • Little to no memory of the procedure

However, this option isn’t ideal if your child is afraid of needles. They may need to rest at home after their appointment. 

Home Preparation

Before your child’s appointment, avoid giving them solid food. Dress them in comfortable or loose-fitting clothing. Bring their favorite toy to keep them at ease before the visit. 

Talk to your child beforehand. Use simple words and avoid negative or scary comments. Answer their questions honestly while reassuring them.

Tell the pediatric dentist if your child takes over-the-counter medications. Follow the dentist’s instructions to avoid complications. 

Rely on Pediatric Sedation Dentistry

Pediatric sedation dentistry can keep your child comfortable during their appointment. Over time, they could experience relief from their dental anxiety.

Our team at Kentuckiana Pediatric Dentistry can answer your sedation dentistry questions. Our practice was built on a love for children. We want them to feel more comfortable about dentistry.

Trust our high-quality care and experienced, qualified team. Contact us to schedule an appointment.