A Step-By-Step Guide To Safe Dental Sedation For Kids


We have all heard about dental sedation and dental anesthesia used for kids, but what is it and how safe is it?

Are there any side effects?

What is the difference between laughing gas, anesthesia and sedation, and why would your child need it?

These are all important concerns to address when choosing how to treat your child, and we try to answer these questions for you.


Is dental sedation safe for kids?

The most important factor for safety in pediatric dental sedation is highly qualified, experienced professionals. This is why it is important that you trust your dentist and their team and know what qualifications they have. When any dental procedure is performed by an experienced team, risks are minimized. Some dentists specialize in pediatric dentistry, which trains them in safe and effective techniques that are specifically designed to alleviate fear and discomfort during procedures. We are very fortunate to have Dr. Jason Brady, nationally and internationally recognized deep sedation specialist, on our team to provide your child with the safest experience possible if they need deep sedation.

Why a child may need dental sedation

There are many reasons a child may need to be sedated during a dental procedure. At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry, we recognize your child’s need to feel safe and be comfortable. Our goal is to make your child’s dental treatment a positive experience to encourage trust and cooperation. Children who feel strong anxiety about dental visits or who have had frightening experiences in the past often benefit from sedation. It helps a child remain still during long, complex procedures. Some children need multiple treatments, and sedation allows them to be treated in fewer visits. If your child needs sedation, Dr. Culp will take as much time as is necessary to answer all your questions and concerns.

Helping your child prepare

Going to the dentist is often frightening for children, and the thought of anesthesia may be even scarier. There are things you can do to help your child feel safe and make the experience easier for your child to handle. The most important thing you can do is to stay calm, encouraging and supportive. Talk openly with your child about their fears and what they should expect, based on what is appropriate for their age and temperament. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry states that children “tolerate procedures best when their parents understand what to expect and prepare them for the experience.” Explain the procedure in general terms, and why it is necessary. Sedation helps them not feel pain during the procedure, and medications can help with pain afterwards. Your child may feel weird after the surgery, but that will go away quickly and if they have general anesthesia they will not remember anything about the surgery. Remind them that you will be there to help them through it. Knowledge will allow your child to feel prepared for the procedure.

Some specific fears are common, and it will help your child to talk through these with you. If you take the time to listen and validate their fears it will help them cope better. Almost all children are afraid of shots and topical anesthetic gel can help with this pain.

Older children may fear waking during surgery, pain, or even death. Give them information on the safety of the procedure. Reassure your child that you trust Dr. Culp and his team and discuss the qualifications needed to be a dentist. Social media is also a concern now. If they are afraid of looking foolish afterwards, reassure them that you will protect their dignity and not allow them to be filmed.


Types of Sedation

Nitrous Oxide - Nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” is the simplest sedation technique that can be used to help ease your child’s anxiety during dental procedures. Safe sedation can be achieved quickly and easily by simply breathing through a scented nasal hood that only covers the child’s nose. Once the treatment is done, reversal of laughing gas is accomplished by breathing 100% oxygen for approximately 8-10 minutes. After full reversal, there are no lasting effects of laughing gas. This technique is used often due to effectiveness and recovery benefits.

Conscious Sedation - Every child is different, and some younger children that haven’t developed all of their coping skills yet may require the next level of sedation. Conscious Sedation, as the name implies, does not put your child to “sleep.” Instead, it allows children the ability to use their existing coping skills to remain calm and comfortable. It also allows for the child patient to remain in the chair, comfortably, for a longer period of time. This enables Dr. Culp to accomplish your child’s treatment as quickly as possible. We can usually treat all areas of decay in two visits when using Conscious Sedation. Parents often remark how pleased they are when they see how effective this technique is.

Unconscious Sedation - In very young children or older children that have had a scary experience in the past, it is sometimes necessary for kids to sleep while their teeth are repaired. This is to protect their psyche and eliminate the dental disease as quickly and effectively as possible. All treatment is completed in one visit! Often X-rays are not possible in this young age group, so all necessary dental X-rays can be acquired while your child rests comfortably and are used to have a complete view of your child’s dental needs.

We are very fortunate to have nationally and internationally recognized unconscious sedation specialist, Dr. Jason Brady, perform this very important role in our office. His bedside manner and intimate knowledge of this technique makes Dr. Brady the best choice in caring for your child. You can feel comfortable knowing that your children will benefit from our effective and safe sedation techniques if they are needed.

Before sedation

We will give you instructions to follow before the visit, which will include when to stop eating and drinking. Please be sure to follow these instructions for your child’s safety. It helps to dress your child in comfortable, loose fitting clothing and bring a small, favorite stuffed animal or toy. Your child may benefit from wearing a pull-up to the appointment if they wear one to sleep. If your child is ill or has any symptoms of a cold or fever, please let us know as soon as possible. For your child’s safety, the appointment may be rescheduled.

During sedation

Your child’s safety is the priority and they will be carefully monitored throughout the procedure. Depending on the level of sedation, we monitor heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and level of oxygen in the blood. Dr. Culp, Dr. Brady and the rest of our staff have been trained extensively in safety procedures. If you have any questions or concerns, we are happy to discuss them with you.

After sedation

We will bring your child to you but will ask you to stay in the office until we are sure it is safe for you to bring your child home. You will receive a list of instructions, which will include how to care for your child and when they can eat or drink. We will also discuss possible side effects, which vary based on the type of sedation used. However, side effects are temporary, and many patients do not report having any side effects.

Final thoughts

Understanding sedation and preparing your child is of the utmost importance. Trusting a highly trained and qualified team to perform your child’s dental procedures adds comfort and helps minimize risks which can lessen your child’s anxiety. At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry, we want you and your child to feel safe and comfortable. We are available and ready to answer any additional questions or concerns you have regarding sedation techniques used at Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry.



At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive children’s dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist. At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry, we are proud to turn your child’s dental visit into a jungle-themed adventure that is fun-filled. Dr. John Culp is a board-certified specialist in children’s dentistry. He is an expert in alleviating patient anxiety. He specializes in calming techniques that help ensure that patients remain relaxed during their visit. As a parent of three sons, Dr. Culp understands and has great compassion for children. At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry, we aim to turn every visit to our office into a fun-filled educational safari for all. Now with offices in Gilbert and Phoenix, you can conveniently find a Jungle Roots location near you! Email: myjungle@jungleroots.com Call Today: (480) 759-1119

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