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How is My Child Going to Fall Asleep?



We understand that the dental office visit might not be a pleasant experience for some children. Anxiety or fear of dentistry in children is commonly developed, at least in part, through their office encounters and can be influenced by a traumatic visit, either emotionally or physically, as well as a fear of the unknown. That’s why we are called in to help!


Our goal at Anesthesia for Dental Health is patient safety first and foremost, followed closely by providing an experience without pain or anxiety. Parents often say something along the lines of:


“We tried to have this done before and it was a total disaster. They were kicking, screaming, and wouldn’t sit still. The dentist couldn’t get any work done. How is this time going to be any different? I thought the ‘sweet air’ was supposed to relax him. How are you going to put them to sleep this time?”


Fortunately, we have several options for how your child can sleep for their procedure both safely and comfortably. Your pediatric dentist will complete their treatment efficiently and your child won’t have any memory of being in the dental chair.


Whereas adolescents and adults most often go off to sleep with an IV, which was placed while awake or with nitrous oxide, we understand that this is a “non-starter’” in children. Younger children or those children with special needs have their anesthetic started differently to avoid repetition of traumatic experiences.


Our first option is what we call a “mask induction” which differs from nitrous oxide. The anesthetic is administered by breathing through a small clear mask which is placed over the nose and mouth. Children are typically asleep within a handful of breaths, in less than a minute! We even let our patients pick what flavor they’d like the mask to smell like when they first put it on! Kids often do very well with this option with some handholding from their parents and our imaginative storytelling, but it’s not uncommon for them to move around in the chair a bit as they’re taking their first few breaths and getting used to the anesthetic smell.


For any number of reasons, some children will be unable to sit in the treatment room and allow a mask with a smell to be placed over their mouth and nose without significant restraint. We understand you know your child better than we do and we rely on your opinion of your child’s maturational level. In those scenarios, we can administer medication in the shoulder which we call an IM injection. We orchestrate the administration, like a vaccine, so that your child never sees the injection (hopefully without them even knowing what happened!). Within 3 minutes your child will be very sedate and without any anxiety about being carried or wheeled to the treatment room.


Our board-certified dentist anesthesiologists are well versed in the care of children with special needs, extreme dental office fear, or pre-cooperative behavior. You and your anesthesiologist will decide what is uniquely best for your child during our pre-procedure consultation. We know that together, we will figure out how best to facilitate their care in as safe and comfortable a manner as possible.


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