The safety of a child, during any kind of medical procedure, requires professionals to follow a strict set of rules & regulations. Medical negligence during dental treatments has led to the death or severe troubles to the little munchkins. Although such cases are rare, it happens mostly due to irresponsibility or unawareness of the protocols. There are guidelines for implementing the methods, for instance, sedation. For that reason, the question arises, is dental sedation safe for children?
Let’s find out how sedation works and how to ensure its secure usage.
Anesthesia or Sedation for Dental Treatment
Children visiting for dental surgery or treatment are usually fearful and uncooperative, which hampers the treatment process. This process might be painful or unbearable for a child of tender age. To carry out a pain-free and safe treatment, doctors take the assistance of anesthesia or sedation to let the child stay still while performing their work.
There are generally three options available for dental sedation:
- Conscious sedation: This is a mild sedative in the form of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to inhale. It will keep them awake, but a little more relaxed and drowsy.
- Deep sedation: Deep sedation involves the use of anesthetic vapor followed by intravenous medications (IV) to help the child sleep. The child can still make some movements. The IV Sedation dentistry allows flexible dosage control depending on the patient’s need.
- General anesthesia: General anesthesia will make the child fall asleep with no movement. It is a pain-free process and administered by specially trained professionals other than the dentist or oral surgeon.
Are these methods safe for children?
The American Academy of Pediatrics Dentistry revised its guidelines and updated it in the year 2019. Dentists and oral surgeons have to follow these guidelines while providing any of the above methods of dental sedation to children. Under a well-trained dentist’s observation and by adhering to the guidelines, dental sedation for your child is safe and effective.
The General rule is that if it is a clinic, there should be at least 2 trained professionals- one being an independent observer who is a certified registered nurse anesthetist and the other an oral surgeon or dentist anesthesiologist. The process requires strict observation by a qualified professional who can keep track of the child’s heart rate, rhythm, blood pressure, and breathing while they are asleep. Both should be capable of providing life support if the need arises.
The thumb rule is to ensure your child under safe hands. For larger institutions like hospitals, you will find other professionals besides the above two like a general dentist, pediatric dentist, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, anesthesiologist, dental hygienist, and dental assistant.
There are small risks in sedating a child, which mostly includes airway obstruction. A study claims that children of tender age (below six years) are at greater risk as they have a smaller airway. An NCBI report on sedation and analgesia for pediatric patients during an emergency focuses on the crucial aspects of carrying out the process in the emergency setting.
Before inducing the process, your child should go through medical observations regarding their age, anatomy, and other factors. Here are some measures you should take into account before letting your child undergo dental sedation:
- If your child has a fever, ear infection, chest congestion, or any other physical ailments alert all to the dentist.
- Inform the dentist if your child is having tonsils, as it can increase the chance of airway obstruction. In that way, the first step would be to treat the tonsils first and then proceed with dental treatments.
- If your child is taking any medications, inform the doctor. You should notify it days before the dental sedation. The dentist will ensure whether it is safe to take those medications along with the dental procedure.
How to prepare your child for it?
Parents can refer to a parent FAQ published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on anesthesia safety for infants and toddlers. Make sure your child does not eat or drink before sedation. They will be happy to accompany their favorite toy for some comfort during the process. Include gentle and calming tactics to relax them. Panic will lead to complications. Question the dentist if there are alternatives.
To sum up, sedating kids for dental surgery or dental treatments are safe if experienced professionals carry out the process under the proper guidelines. Make sure your dentist has the training and experience to perform the task. Also, keep a check on your child’s breathing before and after the treatment. The responsibility of your child’s safety lies with you as well as the dentist.
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