Is dental sedation safe for your child? That’s easy: yes, it is.

The child will not be rendered fully unconscious and there will be no long-lasting effects. Also, it lets your child get the dental correction procedure they need without any pain.

However, we know that you still may have some concerns. So, to ease your worries, we’ve written you this guide. It explains in detail the various types of sedation used in pediatric dentistry.

Learn what to expect, and what to do before and after the sedation, by reading this guide.

Types of Dental Sedation

In order to explain how safe sedation dentistry is for children, let’s first take a look at the main sedation methods pediatric dentists use. The most common is nitrous oxide. But there are also oral and intravenous sedation methods to consider.

Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)

Nitrous oxide is commonly referred to as “laughing gas” due to its effects. Specifically, it fills the patient with giddy euphoria, making them feel like laughing.

Of course, it also numbs the patient. So, the patient will be awake and responsive and will feel happy and relaxed, but they won’t feel the procedure.

For all of these reasons, this is often the preferred method for both patients and dentists. In fact, your child will probably be amused by the idea of being given laughing gas.

The gas is administered through a mask that covers the child’s mouth and nose. After 5 minutes of breathing in the gas, it should start taking effect. After the procedure, the patient will inhale oxygen for another 5 minutes and the effects will then cease.

Oral Sedation

If laughing gas is not preferred, oral sedation can be used. For this, the patient is given medicine that makes him/her relaxed and drowsy. But this medicine won’t make the patient lose consciousness completely.

This sedation method requires more time to take effect, about 20 minutes. It will also take longer to wear off.

And it’s important that the patient has an empty stomach before ingesting the medicine. The patient should have no food or drink before the procedure from 12:00 AM that morning.

Intravenous Sedation

Intravenous or IV sedation is only ideal for very long procedures. Most procedures can be completed before the other types of sedation wear off. But for longer procedures, an IV allows the dentist to keep the medicine flowing into the patient for as long as is necessary.

This method can be a bit more frightening for the child as it requires a needle to be inserted into the arm. Also, the needle must remain there for the duration of the procedure.

The good news is, the medicine takes effect almost immediately. Any pain or fear the child feels from the initial needle insertion will soon be forgotten.

How to Prepare Your Child For Dental Sedation

The most important thing you can do to prepare your child for dental sedation is to ask your dentist about it. Get a printed copy of (or write down) your dentist’s specific instructions on how you and your child should prepare. Make sure you follow these instructions exactly, especially those concerning what the patient should/shouldn’t eat or drink.

But we also want to give you an idea of what to expect in general. Here are some examples of common sedation preparation steps your dentist may instruct you to follow.

We reiterate, though, these are merely examples. Do not follow these steps unless specifically permitted/instructed by your dentist.

General Sedation Dentistry Instructions For Children

If laughing gas is to be administered, your child may be allowed to have a very light meal, like toast, before the procedure. For all other types of sedation, patients are usually prohibited from consuming solid food after midnight on the morning of the procedure. 

Clear drinks are often allowed before the procedure, though. These include:

  • Water
  • Translucent juices without pulp
  • Other translucent kid drinks, like Pedialyte

Basically, if you can see through it and it contains no solids, like pulp, it counts as a clear liquid. Conversely, your child will probably be prohibited from consuming drinks such as:

  • Milk or dairy-based beverages
  • Coffee
  • Smoothies

Also, drinks that are very sugary or artificial, like soda, are typically not a good idea before sedation.

And if your child regularly takes any medications, you must mention all of them to your dentist before the procedure. Ask the dentist for instructions regarding when or if your child should have these medications before sedation.

Infants Under 12-Months-Old

Infants might be allowed to feed 4-6 hours before the procedure. Ask your dentist for specific details.

Comforting Your Child

You know your child best. So you will know best how to handle sharing information about the procedure with them.

For example, explaining the details of the procedure the night before will comfort some children but make others anxious. For the latter, it might be better to postpone this explanation until you are with the doctor on the day of the procedure.

Often, children have a favorite toy, stuffie, security blanket, or other such item that helps them endure discomfort. Check with your dentist ahead of time to see if it’s okay to bring this item to the procedure. If so, do it.

A parent’s touch is also very comforting. Hold their arm or hand or stroke their hair, for example, to keep them calm during the scarier parts of the procedure.

Your voice is also calming to your child. Plus, keeping your child engaged in a conversation keeps his/her focus on you and not on the procedure. 


With any of the above sedation methods, your child may remember very little of the procedure or none at all. To many patients, the end of the appointment seems like waking up after sleeping.

Note that the amount of time it takes the effects to wear off varies from patient-to-patient. Also, some will experience side effects, such as dizziness or nausea, while others won’t.

Also, numbness may persist for one or more hours. Do not let your child chew anything during this time to avoid biting his/her tongue or cheeks.

After this, soreness may develop and last for several days. As such, your dentist may prescribe post-procedure pain medication and instructions on how to clean the affected area.

To that point, all dental procedures and all patients are different. Only your dentist will have the specific aftercare instructions you are to follow.

Talk to Us About Dental Sedation Options

Do you still have concerns? Let us help. Contact us here and we’ll answer all of your questions about dental sedation.