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Oral Sedation and Your Child

oral-sedationSan Diego, CA – If your child has an upcoming dental appointment that may be longer than a traditional check-up would be, your pediatric dentist may recommend a type of sedation for your child. Sedation is recommended for a child’s safety and comfort, and can help increase your child’s cooperation and lessen anxiety during a dental procedure. Dr. Santiago Surillo, a San Diego pediatric dentist, explains more.

“Oral sedation is commonly used by pediatric dentists who work with young children, or children who have a high anxiety level, to help them feel relaxed during a prolonged appointment,” says Dr. Surillo. “Oral sedation consists of a medication delivered to the child orally that will relax the child, making him or her drowsy and even allow the child to drift into a light sleep. It is not like general anesthesia, which renders a patient unconscious, but rather allows the child to enter into a relaxed state that can allow the dentist to perform needed dental work, without fear of the child becoming agitated or upset.”

What to expect
If you have a small child or a child who has higher anxiety at the dentist, and dental work needs to be performed, your dentist may recommend oral sedation. It is not intended to put the child to sleep, but to keep the child calm and relaxed. It will be administered by the dental staff once the patient arrives for the appointment. It will take approximately 20 minutes to work.

Parents should notify the dentist of any changes to their child’s health or if a medical condition has developed prior to sedation. A fever of any kind, ear infections, chest and nasal congestion, and other health issues can increase the risk of complications following sedation. If your child has fallen ill close to the scheduled appointment, it is important to let the dentist know so the appointment can be rescheduled.

The dentist should also be aware of any medications, vitamins or health supplements your child may be taking. If there is a problem with any of them, your dentist will advise you what should be stopped prior to the appointment. Your dentist should also be aware of any allergies or adverse reactions to medication your child has experienced. Be sure to dress your child in loose fitting, comfortable clothing.

Fasting from foods and liquids will also be required. Your dentist will offer specific guidelines for your child, but these are general guidelines for reference:

  • Your child can drink clear liquids up to two hours before sedation
  • Breastmilk should be stopped four hours before sedation
  • Formula, other milk, and light meals should stop six hours before sedation
  • Fried or fatty foods and meats should be stopped eight hours before sedation

Your child will be continuously monitored throughout the dental procedure, and once your child has been released to you, he or she will be responsive, but may still appear drowsy. Your child should be monitored closely in the hours following the procedure.

If your child wants to sleep, position your child on his or her side, with the head supported and chin up. Be sure to monitor your child’s breathing during this time.

Nausea and vomiting can sometimes accompany sedation. Ensure your child is positioned in a way that you can easily assist him or her, and that vomiting will not interfere with breathing should your child be sleeping.

Your child will feel drowsy for the remainder of the day, so it can be helpful to restrict activities. Avoid physical activities such as bike riding, and encourage your child to rest comfortably.

Along with the oral sedation, your child was most likely also given a local anesthetic to numb the area where the work was performed. The area will stay numb for up to four hours. During this time, it is important to keep your child from biting, chewing, or scratching the numbed area.

Once your child is awake and alert, offer small drinks of a clear liquid, and when ready, a light and easily digestible meal.

With the right preparation and proper after care, oral sedation during a dental procedure is safe, and can offer a low anxiety way for your child to have needed dental work done. If you have questions about oral sedation and how it may help your child, contact Dr. Surillo today.

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