Pediatric Sedation Dentistry

Austin TX • Buda TX • Belterra TX

Going to the dentist can be a scary endeavor for children, especially if they need extensive dental work performed. Oftentimes in these situations, anxious, hesitant, or squirmy children can make it impossible for dental procedures to be completed safely and properly. Fortunately, the dental team at Austin Kids Teeth are well-equipped to keep your little ones smiling bright with the help of pediatric sedation dentistry. Here's everything you need to know before scheduling your child's appointment.


What is Sedation Dentistry?

There are several levels of sedation that our dentists commonly use on children and adults alike. Determining which type of sedation your child might need is more of an art than a science.  To understand the sedation levels, think of it as a ladder where each step up is a deeper level of sedation and is added on from the baseline. The lowest rung of the ladder is numbing (local anesthetic). We can also add nitrous oxide or "laughing gas" when needed. If this isn't enough, the dentists rely on an oral sedative, which is also known as conscious sedation since your child will remain conscious or awake throughout the procedure. If this isn't effective, your dentist may recommend general anesthesia for a child’s dental work. When any dental procedure is needed, the trusted dental team will provide feedback on what level they think would be most appropriate.


To understand these sedation options more clearly, a more thorough description of what we commonly use is listed below.

  • Local Anesthesia- lidocaine or articaine injected in the “traditional method”. We discourage you from discussing this in detail with your child as even the most relaxed and inquisitive child can become alarmed when they find out they are going to have a shot in their mouth. We describe it to the patient as “sleepy juice” and it will feel like we’ve blown a bubble on your lip. Or we tell the child that their lips will feel cold and wobbly like jello and it makes it so we can remove your cavity bugs without you feeling anything.
  • Nitrous Oxide- also known as Happy Air or Laughing Gas. Most kids can’t wait to wear the spaceman mask and float off into space. The beautiful thing about this medication is it is quick to start working and it wears off within a few minutes. It helps with mild anxiety and it is a pain killer and helps with gag reflexes. Dr. Babot calls it “Gods gift to dentists” due to how well it works and it’s safety profile. Many people will confuse this with general anesthesia but this is not at all like general anesthesia. Your child will be wide awake and able to respond while breathing nitrous oxide.
  • Oral/Conscious Sedation- for mild to moderate anxiety, extensive or difficult treatment plans, and young children. We are licensed to use several different types of oral sedatives (taken by mouth) that will result in a more relaxed child who will then be more likely to be able to tolerate a long or difficult appointment. This type of sedation requires an empty stomach and waiting in the office for the medicine to take effect- often about an hour. Your child will not be able to go back to school after being sedated even though they will likely be back to normal just a few hours after leaving the office. As the name implies, our patients remain conscious and responsive to this form of sedation.
  • General Anesthesia- while this is our last resort, this is actually a fairly common procedure that has gained much popularity lately. Decades ago, general anesthesia for children was much riskier and as a result, many children were held down or strapped onto a board and had dental work completed while they screamed at the top of their lungs. No wonder so many adults today are horrified of the dentist! Now we have the ability to complete complicated treatment while your child is “asleep” under general anesthesia. We can do this either at Dell Children’s Hospital, Bailey Square Surgery Center, or in our office with a traveling Dental anesthetist. While this is never our first choice, sometimes it is the only way to perform the work without mentally traumatizing your child.

At Austin Kids Teeth, we encourage you to ask questions about our decision to recommend a certain method and are always open to trying to complete the work according to your preferences.


Why Would You Choose to Have a Child Sedated at the Dentist Office?

At Austin Kids Teeth, our top priority is making sure that each of our patients receive compassionate care in a relaxed setting. Sometimes, sedation dentistry is the most effective way to ensure that a child feels comfortable while undergoing certain dental procedures. Oral health issues like cavities and trauma are common in children. When they occur, our dentists will determine if your child's teeth need to be treated and, if so, what the best way to move forward with necessary work may be if your child is nervous or uncooperative. In many cases, sedation dentistry is the solution to help your child stay as calm and comfortable as possible while receiving the dental care their smile requires.


Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

Dr. Babot has vast experience using sedative techniques. Our providers are permitted through the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners to provide Level 2 anesthesia. This means we have been verified by the state board to be properly trained and to have on hand all necessary emergency equipment to safely sedate pediatric patients. In addition, we follow requirements to take additional continuing education focused on sedating children which keeps us up to date with all the most recent recommendations and safety protocols. While safety is our top priority, there are always adverse reactions that can happen. You will be informed of these risks and are encouraged to ask questions.


How Long Does Dental Sedation Last?

The length of your child's dental sedation lasts will vary on the patient and type of sedation they receive. For instance, nitrous oxide wears off immediately, while local anesthetic wears off in about two hours. We regularly use a reversal agent to cause the effects of local to wear off closer to fifteen minutes. On the other hand, the medications used in oral/conscious sedation wear off approximately four hours after taking them. The effects of Valium can be felt for the entire day, but mostly wear off after about six hours. Versed usually wears off in about two hours. Dr. Babot will be sure to explain how long you can expect your child to be sedated before administering any medication.


Is Dental Sedation Painful?

At Austin Kids Dental, our goal is to decrease pain with medication when needed, but also to distract our patients to alleviate stress and anxiety. This is why we offer movie goggles for distraction, we use copious amounts of topical anesthesia, we "jiggle" the cheek while numbing. If sedation is needed, it helps with pain but also aids in relaxation and trust.


What Does Dental Sedation Feel Like?

Sedation dentistry will feel different to every patient depending on their age, size, and the type of medication being administered. Some may cause patients to feel a bit tingly, such as nitrous oxide, while some will cause them to feel "tipsy" or even be unable to walk, such as Versed.

If your child has severe anxiety over going to their dental appointment or is unable to cooperate while undergoing important dental procedures, Austin Kids Teeth is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our pediatric sedation dentistry options.