For some dental procedures like cavity fillings or tooth extraction, our office may use laughing gas (or nitrous oxide) to help calm your child's nerves. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) approves nitrous oxide as a safe and effective treatment for easing oral pain and reducing dental anxiety. A mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide is slowly inhaled through a mask placed over your child's nose, and the effects generally wear off after only a few minutes of removing the mask. Prior to the visit:
- Inform our staff of any respiratory complications that may affect how your child reacts to nitrous oxide treatment.
- Provide all information about any health conditions and medical history.
- If your child is currently on medication of any kind, let Dr. John know during the appointment.
Before and After the Appointment
It is important to note that most of our procedures require only conscious sedation. In other words, your child will remain completely awake during the procedure. If you know that your child has a big day ahead at the dentist, there are several things you should do before and after the visit to reduce nausea and make sure your child recovers completely from any sedatives that are used:
- Prior to the procedure, make sure that your child avoids solid food for 6 hours before the appointment. For the 4 hours before the procedure, instruct your child to drink only clear liquids.
- Dehydration can sometimes result after sedation, so tell your child to drink plenty of water after an appointment. If your child takes a nap after the appointment, wake them up at least every hour to give them a small sip of water.
- The first meal following sedation should be light and easily digestible. Ask our staff about good suggestions for their first meal following the appointment.
- Local anesthetics are often used to numb your child's mouth. Unfortunately, many children bite their lips, cheeks, and tongue without realizing just how hard they are biting, resulting in cuts on the inside of the mouth. After the procedure, watch your child to make sure they aren't biting the affected area.
For some patients, general anesthesia may be the best option for intensive dental repairs. Very young patients, uncontrollable or apprehensive children, and even children with special needs might be best suited for this treatment option. Most of the time, this option is considered after conscious sedation methods like nitrous oxide fail.
Unlike other means of sedation, general anesthesia means that your child is completely asleep during the dental procedure, similar to any surgical operation like getting your tonsils or wisdom teeth removed. This treatment is performed only in a specialized setting like a hospital or outpatient surgery center. While many parents may not like the idea of general anesthesia for their child’s dental work, it may be the option if normal treatment methods don’t work. A few hours of anesthetized dental treatment outweighs the risk of severe tooth decay that could result from untreated ailments.
These procedures are often more intensive than routine dentist appointments, so parents should pay close attention to preparing their child for the big day. Prior to the appointment, parents should:
- Dress their child in loose fitting clothing for the procedure.
- Refrain from feeding their children solid foods after dinner the night before the procedure. Also, parents should serve their children only clear liquids in the 6 hours before the appointment.
- Inform the doctor of any medications the child is currently taking.
- Stay at the hospital or outpatient surgery center for the entire duration of the procedure.
- Boost their child’s confidence by telling them the procedure will not hurt. Establish good rapport with the doctor so that your child is comfortable when they finally arrive at the appointment.
After an appointment involving general anesthesia, parents should also:
- Let their child sleep only on their side if they get sleepy following the procedure. In case of nausea, it is best that children are resting on their side instead of face down or lying up.
- Carefully read "Post-Operative Instructions" given to you by the doctor or facility and ask any questions you have about your child's care.
- Speak with the doctor if he is available after the appointment. Ask about the procedure and any concerns or questions you might have.