Children, anxiety, and dental treatment

One of the most important roles that a pediatric dentist has is handling any anxiety a child may have about a dental visit.  Pediatric dentists use various behavior management techniques to help children feel at ease and reduce anxiety during dental procedures. At Oxford Pediatric Dentistry, our doctors, assistants, and team members have all worked with children for most of our time in dentistry.  You'll find our team members and doctors use some or all of the following methods to help your child be comfortable and happy during their visit:

These techniques help create a relaxed and enjoyable experience for children, reducing the likelihood of dental anxiety and making it easier for them to receive the dental care they need.

Advanced Behavior Management - Sedation

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a type of sedative that is commonly used in dentistry to help children feel relaxed and comfortable during dental procedures. It is a colorless and odorless gas that is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a mask placed over the nose.  Nitrous helps anxious children be cooperative, and helps cooperative kids be even more...well, cooperative (which allows us to fix more teeth in less appointments). 

The effects of nitrous oxide are mild and short-lasting, and patients are able to drive themselves home after their appointment. It works by reducing anxiety and discomfort, and also has a slight pain-relieving effect. The gas takes effect quickly, within about 1 minute, and wears off just as quickly after the mask is removed.  There are no documented allergies to nitrous, and in fact nitrous may help children who have asthma or allergies be able to breath better. 

Nitrous oxide is a safe and effective option for many dental procedures, including cleanings, fillings, and extractions. It is particularly useful for young patients who are anxious or fearful about visiting the dentist, or for children who may be uncooperative during dental treatments. In general, nitrous oxide is considered safe for use in children and adults, but it is always important to let the OPD team know if your child has any medical conditions or is taking any medications.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is a type of sedation that is used in dentistry to help patients feel deeply relaxed or unconscious during a dental procedure. Unlike nitrous oxide (laughing gas), which only affects the patient's level of consciousness, general anesthesia affects both consciousness and sensation.  General anesthesia is typically administered through an IV (intravenous) line, and it works by delivering a combination of medications that suppress consciousness, relieve pain, and provide muscle relaxation. The patient is closely monitored by a trained anesthesiologist during the procedure to ensure their safety and comfort.

General anesthesia is typically recommended for patients who require complex dental procedures, such as oral surgery, or for patients who have severe dental anxiety or phobia. It can also be used for children who are unable to cooperate with dental treatment due to age or behavioral issues. If you are considering general anesthesia for your child's dental procedure, it is important to discuss the option with their dentist and anesthesiologist. They will be able to evaluate your child's individual needs and determine whether general anesthesia is the right choice for them. It is also important to let the dentist and anesthesiologist know if your child has any medical conditions or is taking any medications. General anesthesia is generally safe, but as with any medical procedure, there are some risks involved, such as allergic reactions, changes in blood pressure, or breathing difficulties. The dental and anesthesia team will be able to provide more information and answer any questions you may have. 

If we address the "elephant in the room", most parents are surprised that dental treatment under general anesthesia is offered, given the risk of adverse consequences or death. The risk of death in healthy children under general anesthesia is very low. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the risk of death in healthy children undergoing general anesthesia is approximately 1 in 400,000 cases. This is considered to be a rare occurrence, and the benefits of using general anesthesia in appropriate cases often outweigh the risks.

The use of general anesthesia in children is generally considered safe when performed by trained professionals in a well-equipped facility. Our doctor at Oxford Pediatric Dentistry has treated children under general anesthesia for over 16 years, without a single patient who has ever experienced adverse consequences.