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Not sure how I feel about dental sedation for my kid’s cavity treatment

After two rounds of cavity repairs, the pediatric dentist we’ve been going to has basically not given us the option to NOT sedate the Cupcake for her next visit. Sorry, double negative there, but the dentist is insisting that we medicate her to soothe her anxiety on her next visit.

And I’m not sure how I feel about that.

sedation dentistry for kids

I completely understand the Dentist’s position – she wants the Cupcake to have a relaxed dental experience so she’s not fearful in the future. I’m on board. That’s precisely why we’re paying out of pocket to bring her to a pediatric professional rather than someone not pediatric-ly experienced and “in network” for our insurance. Basically, we’re paying cash so that she will like her dentist. Also, while the Dentist hasn’t expressed it to me, I’m sure she has a concern for the Cupcake’s safety and efficiency to get her job done. Bouts of heavy crying can make it difficult for her to do her job. I absolutely understand that and it’s a valid argument. I don’t fault her for a minute, in fact I really like her.

But the mama bear in me is on the fence. After her first cavity treatment, the Cupcake was pretty teary (we’re not talking hysterics), and who wouldn’t be at 7? That’s some crazy stuff getting your jaw hinged open, drills, needles, suction tubes, oxygen masks with laughing gas, etc. No matter how many movies or flavored gloves you offer, it’s still going to be traumatic experience the first time. They suggested sedation for our return visit, and I said I would consider it.

Sedating her would require her not eating the morning of the procedure, drinking something like Valium when we got there and waiting for an hour, then hooking her up to a monitor (that’s where my alarm bells go off), getting the cavity filled, and then no school for the rest of the day so it can wear off (again, ding, ding, ding).

That seemed a bit much, so I talked it over with the Cupcake and we chose NOT to sedate. She has a perfect school attendance record for the first time in the history of ever, and she doesn’t want to blow it. Besides, when she left the dentist, she couldn’t wait to come back so it’s not like she’s fearful of the dentist even after the cavity EVENT.

Weird, I know. But the Cupcake thinks they are really nice and it’s a fun place and they give her prizes and a balloon and she gets to watch movies. She’s not a fan of the cavity part, and who can blame her? Otherwise, she’s perfectly happy to go. She said she was, “looking forward to it.”

So after the second round, which was disappointingly quite similar to the first and included crying during the needle and drilling and my heart being ripped out – they basically said she has to be sedated when she returns for her last cavity filling.

I’ll be honest, I don’t want to do it.

No, I absolutely don’t want her to fret with anxiety, but… there’s a few thoughts going through my mind:

  • Really? Sedative medicine for a 7 year old? By chilling her out to think the procedure is no big deal, am I teaching her that whenever she’s anxious about something, she can just take the edge off with a little “medicine?” I’m not keen on that message. It’s a CAVITY, we’re not talking about a fear of flying. And when does this special treatment end? Are we setting a precedent for years to come that every time she has a cavity filled, or other angst-filled event, she gets to “take something” for it? Not going to happen.
  • If she suffers a little, maybe she’s be more inspired to avoid having that experience again in the future. In other words, take better care of your teeth and I mean it. This “out of network” experience for us is damn pricey, kid.
  • Am I a mean mom because I want her to toughen up a little? Am I psychologically damaging her by making her learn to get through it without special treatment? I mean, she’s getting Novocain and laughing gas already. It’s not like the dark ages. It doesn’t help for a second that her Daddy has never used even Novocain when his grandfather, the dentist, worked on his teeth. That’s a whole other back story that I have to manage.
  • I can take her to a different dentist. We’re already paying out of pocket so it’s not like we’re bound to this one. But by doing so, are we taking steps backwards since she trusts the current dentist? I dunno, she might like another one just as much.
  • Maybe I just call back and stand my ground, “Sorry, no sedation.” Then they refuse treatment and remark among themselves how cruel I am and predict years of therapy are in our future. Which honestly, I’m totally okay with. Maybe not the therapy part, but no, I don’t care what they think of me personally.
  • It scares the hell out of me to do that to her. What if something goes wrong? I can’t. even.
  • And the least of my issues with it is that yeah, it’s like an extra $200.

Here’s where I left it. I compromised by making the appointment for after school was out so she wouldn’t effect her attendance, but I’m secretly reserving my right to not sedate, which is likely my decision but I don’t have an answer today. The visit makes me so sad but my head is conflicted about what’s the greater good. I’ll give it more thought, pray on it, discuss it with her and the hubs, probably call her pediatrician, talk with my friends who have had similar experiences and I may even ask google.

Have you had a similar experience? Comment below, I’d love to hear how you handled it.

1 Comment

  1. My first question is if the dentist thought T would need to be sedated, why did she not do it one and take care of ask the teeth? Kaia’s teeth don’t tend to fall out on their own and she has had most of them removed, with and without sedation. The first time she was sedated, she woke up, I brought her home and she never went back to sleep. She had dinner at a friend’s house! They pulled 4 teeth and filled a cavity that time. Another time they pulled just one without sedation and never got her quite numb enough, but they gave her the gas she was a bit out of it. I should have known something wasn’t right as I watched tears fall from her eyes. She totally felt it. In January they surgically removed 4 adult teeth, plus 2 wisdom teeth. She happily goes in as long as she gets “the shot” She it totally fine with whatever they do as long as they knock her out!

    I have had cavities filled without sedation and it was terrible for me. the roots were exposed and they never got me numb enough. Other times I have been totally fine with just gas.

    Just stay with her and know the difference between nervous tears and pain. I might even suggest no gas if they just do shots.


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