Is your child feeling anxious about their upcoming dental appointment? While we can assure you both that there is nothing to be afraid of, we recognize this fear is quite common among children. Fear, phobia, and apprehension are considered normal feelings that your child may express prior to a dental appointment. In most cases, these feelings subside once your child becomes more comfortable with their surroundings and the dental team. However, some children’s anxiety level is so high that it interferes with their ability to receive dental care.
If your child falls into this category, our DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY team has a safe, effective solution to consider: dental sedation.
What is Dental Sedation?
Dental sedation describes the implementation of medications that help your child relax during their dental appointment. The sedative administration takes into account your child’s age, weight, and medical history—ensuring the process is safe and tailored to your little one. Here at Bitesize Pediatric Dentistry, we offer nitrous oxide sedation to our patients. To learn more about this sedative and how it works, please read below.
What is Nitrous Oxide?
Nitrous oxide is a sedative that is delivered in the form of gas—inhaled through a mask placed over your child’s nose. This means there are no difficult pills to swallow, and no needles are necessary, making the sedative one of the easiest forms to administer for children.
When inhaled, nitrous oxide enters the bloodstream within minutes and quickly produces feelings of relaxation and euphoria; it may even make them feel a bit silly and giggly! While your child enjoys absolute relaxation, our team can provide the dental care they need. Additionally, if we have any questions or instructions for your child, we will be able to communicate with them easily since they remain conscious and responsive throughout the entire process.
Once the appointment is over, the mask will administer pure oxygen to flush the nitrous oxide from your child’s system. Within only a few minutes, your child will be completely back to normal—able to walk, talk, and return to school!
How Does Nitrous Oxide Work?
Once your child takes their first breath of nitrous oxide, the sedative begins its travel through the lungs, the bloodstream, and finally to the brain. There, the sedative works to activate and deactivate natural functions of the brain to produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria. Nitrous oxide produces these feelings by targeting the limbic system in the brain—the same area that is responsible for processing fear, anxiety, and emotions.
- Upon entering the brain, the sedative essentially blocks signals sent by neurotransmitters; these are the transmitters responsible for triggering anxiety, and blocking them leads to an overall sense of calmness and relaxation.
- Nitrous oxide also stimulates the brain’s dopamine production and increases the release of these natural chemicals. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of pleasure and happiness. By increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain, nitrous oxide induces feelings of euphoria.
While a sedative may seem like an intimidating solution to offer your child, nitrous oxide is gentle, safe, and does not alter the state of mind or impose on the natural functions of the brain. Instead, it only works to block the signals of fear and anxiety while simultaneously increasing feelings of natural pleasure. For this reason, nitrous oxide is often seen as the perfect solution for pediatric dental patients.
Who Can Benefit From Nitrous Oxide?
One of the best features of nitrous oxide is that it can be used for patients of all ages, even babies as young as six months old! This means that no matter how young or old your child is, they can still benefit from the relaxing effects of dental sedation. Nitrous oxide may be a great solution for your child if:
- They have a fear or anxiety about the dentist
- They have trouble sitting still for long periods of time
- They have a very low pain threshold
- They have a sensitive gag reflex
- They have difficulty getting numb
- They are undergoing a lengthy or complex dental procedure
- They have special needs
Nitrous oxide sedation is a great solution for children who may be experiencing any of the problems listed above. If you think your child may benefit from nitrous oxide, talk to our team today!