Anxious Dental Patients
Keeping your child safe & comfortable during their treatment!
Conscious Sedation for Children
We really love providing dental care for kids! Our whole team recognizes that kids have individual needs and we treat every patient we see with respect and compassion. Some children have more difficulty calming down than others, and if this is the case, Dr. Mary is certified and can offer conscious sedation (nitrous oxide) to keep your child safe and comfortable during their treatment.
Nitrous oxide is a gas that has been used in dentistry for decades to sedate and soothe patients who may experience dental anxiety. Dental anxiety is very common in both adults and children! While important for overall health, dentist appointments and procedures can involve a lot of noisy, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable sensations. Mixed with oxygen, colorless, and odorless, nitrous oxide is widely considered to be very safe to sedate even young children. It takes effect quickly and doesn’t linger in the system, too. Nitrous oxide is colloquially called “laughing gas” because of the enjoyable sensations it provides, sometimes causing patients to become elated and giggly.
A child size rubber mask that fits over the nose is the typical method of administering nitrous oxide sedation. Some children may be afraid of the mask, with the long tubes snaking down to the No2 gas tank and straps that fit it to their heads. Looking up pictures of the mask together before a procedure and talking about how it’s safe and will make them feel less worried could be a good solution for kids experiencing this anxiety. If your child is still afraid once they’re in the dentist’s chair, trying the mask on yourself or a stuffed animal to help demonstrate how harmless it is may also be effective. Explain to your child how the laughing gas will make them feel, too: relaxed, calm, happy, safe, tingly, and sleepy are all words that might help a child understand what the procedure will be like.
A small number of patients can experience negative side effects from receiving nitrous oxide. To avoid these side effects is closely follow instructions from the dentist for the duration of the nitrous oxide procedure–before the appointment, talk to your child about listening to the dentist’s explanation of how to safely use the laughing gas.
Practicing slow and steady breathing together is another good way to make sure your child can maintain an appropriate level of nitrous oxide in their system. Make sure your child eats a light meal or snack before the dentist appointment, and don’t eat any large meals for a few hours afterwards too. Ask your dentist for specific details about mealtimes surrounding the appointment. After a procedure, straight oxygen will be received by the same gas apparatus, to clear the system of any remaining nitrous oxide gas and bring the patient back to a clear-headed state of mind.
Another way you can help put your child at ease before dental visits is to simply focus on the positive aspects of dentistry and avoid using words like “needles,” or “drills” that might cause unnecessary fear. Use comments like, “The dentist will show you lots of new, interesting, fun things to help you have a shiny, healthy smile,” can really get them curious and even excited about their appointment with us. Definitely inform your child about the visit and tell them that the dentist will explain everything they need to know and answer all of their questions.
There are a lot of excellent children’s books about trips to the dentist available to kids who like to really be prepared for new experiences! Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer, Peppa Pig Dentist Trip by Scholastic, and The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Jan and Stan Berenstain are all good choices for young kids learning about what it means to maintain dental health. Seeing their favorite characters talking about experiences they may feel anxious about can make kids feel safer about trying new things–they may even begin to find humor in the situation and end up loving their visits to the dentist!