What Are The Effects Of Sedation On Brain Development?

If your child’s dentist has recommended sedation, you may be wondering what the effects of such sedation are, like the effects of sedation on brain development. This blog post will examine this topic in more detail below.

Sedation And Brain Development

First and foremost, however, while major dental associations like the Canadian Dental Association and other similar groups note that sedation is safe for children, it is important to note that pediatric dentists typically try to change behaviour using behaviour modification techniques first. Sometimes, however, sedation may be used to either relax a particularly nervous child or in the event that the child is required to sit still for a long period of time and is unable to do so. In either case, sedation allows dentists to achieve more successful dental outcomes.

How Sedation Works

There are two types of sedation: conscious sedation and deep sedation. Conscious sedation is typically administered in the form of a drink or nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas), and sometimes a combination of the two. Conscious sedation allows children to feel relaxed and drowsy but does not put the child to sleep. A deeply sedated child is one that is both relaxed and asleep, which is achieved via medication delivered through an I.V. Deep sedation may be recommended in the event that your child needs restorative dental work. Whether your child will require sedation will depend on the extensiveness of the treatment, their age and their cooperation.

All major dental associations, including the Canadian Dental Association, support the use of sedation as long as it is practised under their guidelines. Dental anaesthesiologists are specially trained for three years in order to deliver deep sedation and general anaesthesia.

Ultimately, no studies have shown that sedation affects brain development in a negative way. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning declared that repeated or lengthy exposure to general anaesthesia could harm brain development in children under three, general anaesthesia and sedation are not the same procedures. In addition, studies have found that those results were inconclusive. In fact, two major Canadian studies found that there was no increased risk of learning or behavioural problems in toddlers who underwent general anaesthesia. Similarly, no major dental association has taken a stance against the original findings.


Your child’s safety should always be your top concern. When it comes to sedation, parents and caregivers should take care to follow their dentist’s guidelines carefully, such as restricting food and drink before sedation in order to prevent vomiting and then inhaling the stomach contents.
Remember that your dentist will discuss the best option for your child with you and will be there to answer any questions that you have in the consultation.

Smile Town is a children’s dental clinic, dedicated to making your child’s dental experience positive and fun. For more information, click here.