Is “Sleep Dentistry” Safe for Your 2-year-old Kid?

What Is Sleep Dentistry?

Dental appointments are essential and play a crucial role in improving your child’s oral health. The American Dental Association recommends arranging dental checkups every six months to ensure dental health. Postponing dental visits or your child’s dental work is not recommended, even if your child suffers from dental fear or anxiety.

So, what’s the solution? Is there a way my child can receive pediatric dental care without panicking? Yes, there is.

Fear of dentists and dental procedures like filling a cavity or oral surgery is pretty common even among adults; however, there are ways your child’s paediatric dentist can apply to lessen your child’s fear and anxiety of dental work.

Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry sometimes referred to as sleep dentistry, is when your dentist uses medication to help you or your child relax during a dental procedure. The term “sleep dentistry” may not be accurate because the child won’t be asleep throughout the dental work unless your child’s dentist has administered general anaesthesia.

Types of Dental Sedation

Several types of dental sedation might be used in paediatric dentistry depending on the child’s dental and overall health condition.

Laughing Gas or Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, also known as happy gas or laughing gas, is a safe, mild sedative that reduces anxiety and relaxes a nervous child during dental procedures. Laughing gas is a colourless and odourless sedative and is considered conscious sedation meaning your child remains awake throughout the entire dental procedure.

Your child’s dentist will put a mask over your child’s nose, and your child will inhale nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen. Within five minutes of breathing nitrous oxide, the sedation effect will kick in, and your child will start to feel less anxious for their dental procedure.

Children may feel happy, relaxed, light-headed, and have a slight tingling sensation in hands or feet after inhaling nitrous oxide. Your child will be able to respond to their dentist after the inhalation with nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide will wear off a few minutes after your child stops breathing in the gas and won’t leave any residual effects. The paediatric dentist will have your child breathe pure oxygen to clear any remaining gas from the body and prevent headaches.
While nitrous oxide is a safe sedative, the dentist will first ask about your child’s medical history to ensure laughing gas is an ideal sedation method for your child.


The sedation procedures are very safe, and nausea is typically the only possible side effect of happy gas. Please avoid giving your child a heavy meal before their dental sedation procedure.

Oral Sedation

Minimal to Moderate sedation

Oral sedation is another conscious sedation technique used to calm your nervous children during their dental treatments. This dental sedation technique involves the dentist giving your child the sedation medication in the form of a pill to reduce their anxiety. The sedative drug will not make your child fall asleep in the dental chair, but it will make them drowsy, relaxed, and more cooperative for their dental procedure.

The dentist will have your child take the sedative drug by mouth or through the nose once you arrive at the dental clinic. The medicine will take effects within twenty minutes and relax your child. The dentist will assess the child’s age, medical condition, weight etc., before considering oral sedation for the child’s dental work.


Ask the dentist whether it’s safe if your child eats or drinks after midnight, the night before the sedation procedure this method of sedation isnot commonly used in Australia.

IV Sedation

Deep Sedation

IV sedation which is short for intravenous sedation, involves the patient receiving the sedative drugs through their vein. For the administration of intravenous sedation, a needle will be inserted into the child’s vein. IV sedation is not commonly used in paediatric dentistry.

The child won’t be put to sleep during this sedation technique, but they will experience deep calming relaxation. In other words, during your child’s procedure, they are sleepy but not asleep or entirely unconscious. If the dental treatment takes longer, the oral surgeon may administer sedation medication more to maintain the child’s state of relaxation.

The child’s vital signs, including your child’s heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and heart rhythm, will be constantly checked by a specialist paediatric anesthesiologist. Patients will not typically remember much of the procedure after the effects of iv sedation wears off.

General Anaesthesia

General anaesthesia may be necessary for paediatric patients who are not calm and cooperative while in the dental chair. General anesthesia may be administered for certain dental procedures, requiring uncooperative young children to stay still.

General anaesthesia will not typically be administered in dental offices. Paediatric anaesthetists will administer general anaesthesia in the hospital setting because patients undergoing anaesthesia will be unconscious for the entire procedure duration. After the procedure is over, your child will be sent to the recovery room, and their vital signs will be carefully checked.

Note: General anaesthesia will make your child sleep.

General anesthesia can be used for:

  • Children with special needs like those with ADHD
  • Children who have some kind of disability or severe autism
  • Children who were not controllable with other dental sedation techniques
  • Children who need lengthy dental procedures
  • Children who need invasive dental procedures, such as dental surgery, or jaw surgery


If your child has sleep apnea, large tonsils, or chronic upper respiratory disease, the dentist will first conduct a thorough assessment. This evaluation is necessary to determine what type of dental anesthesia will be the better and safest option for the child’s dental procedure.

Note: For the first few hours after your child’s procedure with dental anaesthesia, provide them with only soft foods.

How Safe Is Anesthesia in pediatric dentistry?

Laughing gas or nitrous oxide is considered the safest dental sedation in paediatric dentistry with the least possible side effects.

Dental professionals will first assess the child’s medical history and health condition to ensure sedation is safe for your child.

Note: Dental anaesthesia and sedation could cause allergic reactions in some patients. Make sure you let the dentist know if your child has experienced any adverse reaction to sedation dentistry before.

The paediatric dentist’s training and experience are essential in performing dental anaesthesia. A skilled dentist can deal with any emergency during the procedure.

Sleep Dentistry Specialists

Various medical and dental professionals may be involved to perform a safe, pain-free dental treatment for your child.

Here’s a list of specialists that are likely to be involved in a child’s dental procedure:

  • General dentist
  • Paediatric dentist
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons
  • Anaesthesiologist
  • Nurse anaesthetist
  • Dental assistant
  • Dental sedation assistant