Dental procedures can be overwhelming for some patients, particularly those who are especially young or anxious. At Coppe + Sears, our goal is to provide our pediatric patients with a positive dental experience in a safe, stress-free environment. For complex procedures that take a long time, or for our youngest, most nervous patients, oral conscious sedation is sometimes the best way to complete dental appointments. Sedating a patient is a very common procedure, and can help reduce stress levels for children before, during, and after treatment is complete.

What is sedation dentistry?

With sedation dentistry, a mild sedative may be used by one of our doctors

  • for very young children who are unlikely to keep still long enough for us to perform high-precision procedures safely. Sedation makes the visit less stressful for both children and parents, and reduces the risk of injury.  
  • for children who struggle with anxiety during dental appointments. Being sedated allows them to relax, cope better, and feel more positive about treatment.
  • for children with special needs. Sedation helps us to prevent spontaneous movement from the patient, making them more cooperative overall.
  • when several procedures need to be done at the same time, though more than one sedation appointment may be required based on the amount of work to be done.
  • when doing restorations (fillings) or extractions.
  • for other reasons, depending on the unique needs of each individual patient we see.

A sedation appointment is normally around two hours long. During this appointment, a medical release will be signed by a parent or guardian, then the child will be given an oral liquid or pill, followed by nitrous oxide and the actual dental procedure, and then recovery time. The effects of the nitrous oxide will wear off almost immediately, but the effects of oral sedation will typically last until around bedtime. Sedation medication is not given to control pain or discomfort, but it can help our patients to forget their procedures, so they will not be fearful of future appointments.

Coppe and Sears Doctors

What types of sedation are most commonly used?

There are several different types of sedation available, each beneficial in its own way. Once we assess a child’s medical history, we will look at the type and duration of the procedure needed, as well as their comfort level, before recommending a particular method of sedation.

We use oral conscious sedation, as it allows children to communicate with us, follow instructions, and cooperate throughout the procedure. At Coppe + Sears, we offer the following methods of sedation for children two years of age and older:

Nitrous oxide

Often referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is a mild sedative that is very safe and very commonly used in dental patients of all ages. We give nitrous oxide by placing a fitted mask, which carries oxygen mixed with the nitrous, over the nose. As the patient breathes in normally, uptake occurs through the lungs. The sedation takes effect in about five minutes, and the mask will remain in place until the procedure is complete. The patient is awake during the entire procedure, and when we are finished, the nitrous will be turned off and the child will breathe in pure oxygen for a few minutes to clear out any remaining gas. There are no lingering effects. Rarely, nitrous oxide may cause nausea, and for this reason, we suggest only minimal food intake prior to the nitrous oxide appointment.

Oral sedatives

Oral sedation may be used in either pill or liquid form. The dosages for each child are individually calculated based on their age and weight. The medication usually begins to work within about twenty minutes, and will make the patient relaxed, calm, and a little drowsy during the procedure. Parents should plan to be in our office for half an hour after the dental appointment time so we can continue to monitor the patient until they are ready to go home and  expect the effects of it to last about 4-6 hours. Children should not eat or drink after midnight the day of their scheduled appointment.

Hospital dentistry

Dr. Carolyn Coppe provides hospital dentistry through Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for patients with dental phobia, complex medical histories, major dental treatment, or physical, psychological, or emotional special needs that will require general anesthesia rather than the conscious sedation we administer in our office.

What to expect before, during, and after sedation

With the right preparation beforehand, and proper care afterwards, dental sedation is a safe and simple process. Each experienced member of the Coppe + Sears staff works to communicate clearly with each patient and parent in order to provide the best possible experience.  

Before sedation

Parents should restrict food and drink after midnight before sedation for safety reasons. Children should be dressed in comfortable clothing that allows our assistant to attach monitors quickly and easily.  A full medical history will be required, including any current prescriptions, over the counter medications, vitamins, or supplements.

During sedation

Children have an easier time staying relaxed if parents remain calm and encouraging. Comfort items, such as a favorite toy or lovey, can help bring a sense of familiarity to the procedure, as can holding the child’s hand and speaking to them in a gentle tone. We encourage parents to leave other children at home or in the waiting area if at all possible in order to focus their full attention on the child receiving sedation. The safety of our patient is paramount to us during dental sedation. While undergoing sedation, the patient’s blood oxygen level, blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate are all closely monitored.

After sedation

Children may sometimes feel confused, fussy, or nauseated following sedation. Some of the other longer-lasting effects of sedation are a loss of physical coordination, dizziness, and sleepiness, so going back to school or daycare after the procedure really should not be an option if possible. For the first few hours after the procedure, children should only have soft food, and if there is any vomiting, severe pain, severe bleeding, or fever, parents should contact us immediately. Once the mouth has healed, the normal dental hygiene routine may resume.

Coppe and Sears staff

The best in sedation dentistry with Coppe + Sears

Every patient has unique dental and orthodontic needs, and whatever the reason for dental sedation, Coppe + Sears are prepared to provide the best experience possible, through compassion, excellent communication, and customized care. Our talented team thrives on creating the most beautiful smiles in Lexington. To find out more about how we achieve the optimum in oral health, get in touch with us today!