As a parent, when you hear the word sedation, it can immediately raise concerns about the safety of your child. It’s essential that parents speak to a dentist in order to fully understand the different types of sedation options available.

According to an article published in the New York Times, entitled Should Kids Be Sedated for Dental Work?, Parents should ask the dentist what level they’re aiming for and what emergency measures will be taken should, for example, moderate sedation become deep, and a child can no longer breathe on his or her own.’

The different types of sedation

Nitrous oxide: Commonly known as ‘laughing gas’, Nitrous oxide is a mild, virtually non-invasive sedative. Children breathe in the gas with a small amount of oxygen. It’s common for them to feel lightheaded, and some may even act a bit silly.

Mild Sedation: This type of sedation is used on older children. A combination of medications is administered, and your child will remain awake during the procedure, but he/she is entirely relaxed and won’t feel any pain. Afterwards, it’s common for children to forget that the procedure took place, so don’t be alarmed if that happens.

Moderate sedation: Under moderate sedation, children will be very sleepy, but they should be able to respond to the dentist. This type of sedation shouldn’t be used on young or very fearful children.

Deep Sedation: This involves the administration of intravenous (IV) medications that will ensure children are asleep during a procedure. A second qualified medical professional is required to be present while children are under sedation. They will monitor heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, as well as breathing.

General anaesthesia: Under general anaesthesia, children are entirely asleep and won’t feel any pain. An anaesthesiologist will administer the medications and monitor vital signs. Once your child is safely sedated, the dentist will perform the procedure.

Dentists usually ask the parents to be present when children wean off sedation because he/she may feel confused and anxious when they awake.


It’s interesting to note that in 2019, the American Academy for Paediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry (AAPD) updated the current guidelines for dentists and oral surgeons to follow when providing deep sedation or general anaesthesia to children.

The guideline states ‘It requires that there are always at least two people in the room who are trained to provide advanced life support measures in case there are any problems. One of these people will be the dentist or oral surgeon performing the procedure, and the other will be an independent observer. This independent observer must be “a physician anaesthesiologist, a certified registered nurse anaesthetist, a second oral surgeon, or a dentist anaesthesiologist.”

All of this information may seem overwhelming, but under a trained dentist, sedation is safe for children as long as the correct preparations and procedures are followed according to the current guidelines. For peace of mind, make sure that you ask your dentist any questions you may have so that you can make an informed decision.


For more information about the different types of sedation and anaesthesia available and which method would suit your child, please schedule an appointment at Mathee Dental Studio in Somerset West.