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A Complete Guide on Dental Sedation for Your Child with Autism

Photo: A Complete Guide on Dental Sedation for Your Child with Autism
Dr. Greg Grillo (

For a child with autism, going to the dentist can be overwhelming. Patients may become too anxious making them unwilling to receive the dental care they need. In these cases, dental sedation may be a good option.

As a family dentist working for over 17 years, I’ve used sedation methods in my own practice. It can be a great option for a patient with additional needs to comfortably receive the care they need.

Here’s everything you need to know about choosing sedation for your child.

1. Different types of sedation

There are three common types of sedation methods that your dentist may use, and they will advise you on which method will work best based on the type of care that’s needed. It’s important to know the difference between each one so you can decide which is right the patient.
  • Nitrous Oxide: This is a safe anti-anxiety medicine that is inhaled through a nose mask. It’s recommended that this method is only used on children who are older than five as they must keep breathing throughout the appointment.
  • Conscious Sedation: This method involves the use of sedatives to produce a calm, sleepy state without losing consciousness. The sedative is given as a pill or liquid one hour prior to the procedure.
  • General Anesthesia: This involves the loss of consciousness and is usually the last resort for those who don’t respond to the first two options. It needs to be administered in a hospital or fully equipped healthcare center.

Patients with special needs may respond in a wide variety of ways and there can be serious side effects. One way to help know if dental sedation will work and be safe for your child or is to get a screening to rule out respiratory issues and any medical contradictions.

2. Conflicting medical conditions

If your child suffers from other medical conditions, you will have to take extra precautions to make sure that dental sedation is the safest option. Sometimes dental sedation can conflict with other medical conditions, in these cases, it’s best to find another method for dental care.

Speak to your dentist about any medical conditions that your loved one has and ensure that dental sedation will be the safest option.

3. Preparing for the appointment

Once you have chosen a sedation method, the next step is to prepare for the appointment. There is a lot you can do to work to make this a positive experience.

A few days or weeks before the appointment, start introducing your loved one to what the process is like. You can do this with visuals such as videos or storybooks. You can even explain any good experiences you’ve had at the dentist to help them feel more comfortable.

Depending on which type of sedation the patient is receiving they will most likely not be able to eat past midnight the night before the appointment.

Children will be able to drink water, clear juice, or Pedialyte. If your child takes regular medications, be sure to let your dentist know ahead of time to make sure these medications won’t interfere with the sedation that’s going to be administered.

Dental sedation can be a safe and great way for your loved one to receive the dental care they need, especially if they get easily overwhelmed by the sensory elements at the dentist.

The best thing you can do is be positive and encouraging throughout the entire process. Good dental care is important to one’s overall health and well-being and everyone should receive the care they need.


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