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How dental sedation for children works

pediatric dentist administering inhalation sedation to a child

Is it safe to sedate a child for dental work?

When a child needs extensive dental treatment, dental sedation can make the process painless and easy. Naturally, as a parent, you’ll want to know what’s involved in the process before your child’s procedure.

It’s sometimes necessary to sedate a child for dental work to ensure that the child lies completely still and treatment is pain-free. The child often won’t remember anything about the procedure and will gently wake when it is complete.

With sleep dentistry, your child can go to sleep and wake up with a healthy, glowing smile.  

Dental sedation for children is safe when you follow the procedure outlined by your dental anaesthetist. There is a range of options to sedate a child for dental work — the best one for your child will depend on the dental work to be done, as well as the age of the child.

It is vital that as a parent, you understand the risks, benefits and alternatives to sleep dentistry for their child to ensure that the method of dental sedation chosen is the most appropriate.

What are the sedation options paediatric dentistry?

There are several ways that a dentist can ensure your child remains pain free throughout a dental procedure. Children differ from adults physically, emotionally and psychologically, and at The Point Dental, we take this into account to ensure the child is safe, comfortable and pain-free.

Conscious dental sedation for children

During conscious sedation, the child remains awake, relaxed and pain-free.


For some children, distraction using headphones and an eye mask is sufficient to reduce their anxiety and complete the dental work safely. This technique can be combined with anti-anxiety medication to help the child to relax.

Nitrous oxide

This fast-acting, odourless gas is administered through a mask. It’s safe to use for children and wears off quickly once the procedure is complete. Nitrous oxide is generally the first option recommended for a child who needs more sedation than a simple local anaesthetic.

Moderate sedation

Oral sedation can be taken in the form of a syrup or tablet to help the child to remain calm and relaxed. This type of sedation ensures the child is pain-free and comfortable while remaining awake and able to breathe on their own.

Twilight sedation

This type of intravenous sedation is milder than a general anaesthetic. It is administered through an IV line and provides deeper sedation while keeping the patient awake. The child will be less aware of what is happening and will need time to recover before leaving the dentist’s office.

Sleep dentistry for children

For complicated or extensive dental treatment, sleep dentistry may be the best option. A general anaesthetic is given through an IV line. The patient falls asleep and will not remember anything about their dental treatment. At the end of the procedure, the child may feel dizzy, nauseous or sleepy, so they will need to be supervised rest for the remainder of the day.

Is dental sedation safe for children?

Dental fear and anxiety are common in children, however choosing the right dental sedation can help your child to overcome their dental fear. When your child undergoes dental sedation at The Point Dental, they will be closely monitored throughout the procedure.  Dental sedation is safe and usually suitable for children who are over one year old.

During the procedure, there will always be two staff in the room with the child at all times to monitor breathing, oxygen supply and heart rate and to ensure the patient remains immobile throughout the entire procedure.

Making the appointment as smooth as possible

You can help to make the appointment easier for your child by ensuring that they understand what is going to happen. Dress your child in loose clothing on the day of the procedure to allow monitoring devices for temperature, blood pressure and heart rate to be attached without fuss.

It’s of paramount importance that you strictly follow the fasting advice recommended by the dental team as some types of dental sedation can cause nausea.

You can help your child to stay relaxed by being calm and encouraging. It can also help to bring any comfort item such as a favourite toy. In most cases, you will be able to remain with your child throughout the procedure to provide support.

When should I consider dental sedation for my child?

You may consider sleep dentistry if your child is afraid of needles and highly anxious about going to the dentist, or if they struggle to sit still throughout a procedure. Dental sedation may also be needed if your child needs complicated or emergency dental work.

Is dental sedation for children safe?

It’s vital that you go through your child’s full medical history with the dental team before a procedure.

Whether you decide on sleep dentistry or conscious sedation, you can minimise the risks of dental sedation by following the guidelines of the dental team before and after the procedure.

Nitrous oxide is a very safe sedation option because the child remains awake, responsive and breathes independently throughout the procedure. It might not be suitable if the child has a cold or nasal blockage.

Be sure to discuss the options with the dentist before the day of the appointment to ensure the best option is selected for the child’s age, temperament and dental work requirements.

When your child has dental sedation at The Point Dental, they will be under the care of a vigilant expert team who specialise in paediatric dentistry.

Does your child feel anxious about the dentist or need a complicated procedure? Our highly experienced sleep dentistry team will ensure that the visit is pain free.