Dental Work (anxiety and sedation)

Our seven-year-old son needs to have a cavity filled but is very uncooperative at the dentist’s office. Is there any anesthesia that would help him out? I don’t like putting him through such a traumatic thing and I hate to have him go under a general anesthesia, but we are thinking about it. Any advice?

It is very common for children to be anxious and even fearful in a dental setting. Children with CdLS present a few additional barriers to being able to undergo routine dental procedures and therefore it is imperative that some form of sedation or anesthesia be utilized.

If there is good access for the dentist to the tooth that needs to be filled, that is, if the tooth is near the front of the mouth, then a mild sedative might just do the trick. As pediatric dentists we are trained in conscious sedation. If you need a referral in your area, please let us know.

The pediatric dentist might use nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or a combination of laughing gas and an oral sedative (Vistaril or Atarax or Demerol). Everyone has their own preference, but they all do the same thing–they take away anxiety and offer you a calm child that is able to accept the treatment at hand.

This conservative approach, conscious sedation, does not put the child to sleep and it does not always work. It might not be enough to gain the level of control and cooperation that the doctor might need to do the filling safely and effectively. If a deeper level of sedation is required, it might be necessary to have an anesthetist come in to the office and give an IV sedation, or have this as an outpatient procedure in a hospital, which is the much more common approach. This is safe and effective in the proper setting, with the properly well-trained personnel and taking into consideration any other medical problems the child might have. For instance, heart or lung problems might not make the patient a good candidate for any of these sedation procedures and the operating room at the hospital might be the best environment to treat him in. Unfortunately, there are quite a few things to take into consideration when attempting to help children accept the dental procedures that must be done. Often, conscious sedation has replaced the need for general anesthesia in many cases.

Do not be afraid of general anesthesia. It, can bethe safest approach. The child is intubated and the anesthesiologist is breathing for him/her, monitoring him/her and all in a safe environment.  If general anesthesia is used, please try and have any other potential procedure the child needs done at the same time in order to minimize the need for it. Children with CdLS have specific needs for general anesthesia, including caution intubating due to the small mouth and chin, and may have reactions to certain medications. Input from the anesthesiologist on the Clinical Advisory Board can be obtained if needed.

TK 7-13-10

Legal Disclaimer:  Please take note that the CdLS Foundation’s Ask the Expert service is comprised of volunteer professionals in various areas of focus. Response times may vary and a response is not guaranteed. Answers are not considered a medical, behavioral, or educational consultation. Ask the Expert is not a substitute for the care and attention your child’s personal physician, psychologist, educational consultant, or social worker can deliver.

Answer Published On: October 18th, 2018 6:52 PM