210 Willow Street NW, Lenoir, NC 28645

Lenoir Childrens Dentist Explains Dental Anesthesia for Children: Risks and Options

At Caldwell Pediatric Dentistry, we use many tools and techniques to help kids feel calm and empowered during their appointment. However, if those techniques don’t work, another option is dental anesthesia. In today’s post, our Lenoir pediatric dentist will explain some sedation options we can use to treat particularly anxious children, as well as the risks involved.

Understanding the Risks

More and more parents and dentists are raising concerns about the use of sedation in pediatric dentistry. In 2013, University of Washington researchers found 44 cases over the past three decades in which dental patients died after sedation or general anesthesia. Most were 2 to 5 years old. Considering that millions of U.S. children see the dentist every year, these numbers are not alarming—but they do indicate that the risk is present, if not prevalent.

The primary risk of pediatric sedation is that the airway will be obstructed, since very young children do not have as much of an oxygen reserve in their blood as older children or adults. This means that their body cannot compensate for short lapses in oxygen as easily as an adult’s can.

Another factor that increases the risk of pediatric oral sedation is the fact that dentists’ offices are less equipped than hospitals to treat over-sedation crises. If an issue occurs in a hospital during surgery, resuscitation can begin immediately, but most dentists must call 911 and wait for help to arrive.

Weighing the Options

Again, although the risks involved with sedation dentistry are small, they are still present, and both parents and dentists must determine whether it is the best, or only option to ensure safe treatment. The first thing parents should ask is whether anesthesia is necessary, and if a less risky and less invasive option, such as placing a temporary filling to buy time until a child will sit for a proper one, can be pursued. Sedation may be needed, for example, if a 3-year-old requires root canals for badly decayed molars or has a throbbing abscess, but less advanced cavities may be treated in other ways. Parents should also ask the dentist what level of sedation they are aiming for, and what emergency measures will be taken should, for example, moderate sedation become deep and prevent a child from breathing properly.

Bottom Line: Always Visit a Pediatric Dentist

The best safety precaution you can take to prevent oversedation during a dentist appointment is to bring your child to a pediatric dentist, not a general dentist. Pediatric dentists train for an added two or three years to learn child sedation, including choosing the appropriate drug for the child’s weight, and knowing how to rescue an oversedated child. By contrast, a general dentist may take a weekend course in moderate sedation. In addition, a pediatric dentist will have better skill, training, and experience in behavior management than a general dentist. This will make them less likely to turn to sedation as a solution.

Need a Pediatric Dentist in Lenoir NC?

At Caldwell Pediatric Dentistry, we are committed to helping kids establish lifelong oral health routines. We understand that the more uncomfortable patients are during dental treatments, the more likely they are to avoid care, even as adults. That is why we work carefully with parents to find the best dental sedation option for each individual child and situation. To learn more or schedule an appointment, please contact us today.