Sedation Dentistry for Kids

May 17, 2012


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Stuart D. Waite, DDS,

chairman of the Department of Dental Medicine at Mercy Hospital St. Louis

Trips to the operating room are not always for surgery, broken bones and stitches. Sometimes they are the best option for treatment or care of teeth and mouth problems. Some dental procedures can be painful or frightening for children whether they are for dental decay, infection or injuries to the mouth. Fortunately, sedation dentistry can alleviate both the fear and discomfort of many procedures.

Recent reports from the Center for Disease Control and National Institute of Health indicate that dental decay is on the rise in children ages 2 through 19. In fact, tooth decay affects more children than any other chronic infectious disease.

When kids get dental work, they often act out due to fear. This can affect the dentist’s ability to perform the necessary treatment. Sedation is a technique to guide a child’s behavior during the dental procedure and help increase cooperation while reducing anxiety or discomfort.

Sedative medications allow most children to become relaxed and drowsy. Unlike general anesthesia, conscious sedation is not intended to make the child unconscious or unresponsive. Various medications can be used and are carefully selected based upon a child’s overall health, level of anxiety and dental treatment recommendations.

General anesthesia, however, is sometimes needed for very young children, along with children and adults with special needs such as developmental disabilities or complex health problems. These patients are not always able to cooperate and understand the planned treatment. This makes dental procedures even more challenging for the patient and the provider. Sedation in an operating room setting allows the dental patient to receive all their care in a safe environment without discomfort or unpleasant memories of the treatment. 

When administered by a pediatric dentist who follows the sedation guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, sedation can be used safely and effectively. For the safety and comfort of your child, discuss sedation options and patient monitoring with your pediatric dentist.

Stuart D. Waite, DDS, is the chairman of the Department of Dental Medicine at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. General and pediatric dentists, periodontal and oral surgeons, along with other dental specialists are available to treat patients of all ages and needs. For more information, please visit 


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