33 answers

Anesthesia for Dental Work or Laser Dentistry?

My 4-year old has a few cavities that need to be filled. When we took him in he got scared and refused to let the dentist numb his teeth (even though he does great with cleanings). The dentist now wants to put him out under light anesthesia to fill the cavities. I'm a little bit freaked out about it. Has anyone else had to have their child put under for dental work? If so, how did it go and did you think it was worth it? (Our insurance will only cover half the cost.)

Also, I've heard a lot about laser dentistry. A neighbor said her son had his cavities taken care of with a laser which required no anesthesia but was "uncomfortable." Do any of you (or your children) have experience with this type of treatment?

Thank you!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Our son had his sedated dentistry done this morning and it was a very good thing because things were worse than they appeared and it took longer and was more complicated. He's doing fine now and I'm very happy we took this route. Thanks again.

Featured Answers

Have you looked for a pediatric dentist. I know that there are several out there that only take little guys/gals. The staff there is specially trained to get them to open up.

1 mom found this helpful

My son is 9 and was fearful of the dentist when he needed a cavity filled. The dentist suggested anesthesia. It didn't "put him under." Instead, it was just a mask with a light anesthesia that helped him to relax. Things went great! My older son wishes the doctor had an anesthesia mask for when he needs to get shots!


My very wonderful pediatric dentist recommended the liquid medicine versed. Its a very low dose of something similar to valium and my son would get a little loopy then was fine with whatever the dentist had to do. Also, he uses nitrous but only over the nose and its such a low dose they don't fall asleep.

More Answers

Hey K.,

My husband is a dentist and I've worked in a dental office for years. Are you talking about IV sedation, or oral medication? I assume IV sedation since you're talking about insurance. With IV sedation if anything goes wrong they already have the IV line to administer reversal drugs. With oral medication they have to wait for the effects to wear off. I've never seen anyone have problems with either, however there is alway a small risk with any anesthetic. They will be careful and hook him up to a pulse-ox machine so they know if he starts having any problems.

I'm sure he will be fine. The nice thing about sedating him is the drugs will have an amnesia effect on him and he probably won't remember anything about the appointment. This is great for kids who are scared so they don't develop a phobia of the dentist! Good Luck.


2 moms found this helpful

I agree with Melissa...anything you can do to make it a more pleasant experience! Im sure you have done your homework on the subject and honestly, I might do the same for my little guy. He wouldn't even open his mouth to let her count his teeth without a bribe...flat out refused the cleaning. Soooo...if the next try is a strike-out we'll consider the same path. It's really the best option...you know the cavities will become painful without treatment, so better to do everything you can to get it taken care of.

1 mom found this helpful

My know 6 year old son had to be put unser when he was 3-4 for major reconstructive work, and my husband felt the same way, I just didn't want him to have any fears of the dentist, like I do, actually I am terrified! It wasn't bad he did great the only thing taht happened was he got sick to his stomache about an hour after it was done, and then he was his normal self, there can always be complications but it is very minimal and will help your son not to be afraid, I would do it agian!

1 mom found this helpful

Have you looked for a pediatric dentist. I know that there are several out there that only take little guys/gals. The staff there is specially trained to get them to open up.

1 mom found this helpful

My 5yo has had dental work done under three conditions, laughing gas, general anesthetic (asleep), and then just with the shot of novocaine. She had the general anesthetic when she was just 3, she had about 6 cavities, and her pediatric dentist recommended going that route. It was great, she didn't have any pain, and she was fine. A while ago she had 5 cavities filled while under laughing gas and the novocaine. My DH took her in that time, and he said she did ok, she almost fell asleep while on the gas. She didn't freak out when they had to give her the shot of novocaine. Then just a couple weeks ago, she had an infected molar, and had to get it extracted. Her pediatric dentist was closed, so I had to get her an emergency appointment somewhere else. I didn't even think to ask, but they didn't offer laughing gas. It was a horrible experience. She freaked out during the x-rays (they make her gag) Then when they put the q-tip with the numbing gel in her mouth, she started crying and saying it was stinging. Then she got the shot, which was another ordeal, with her screaming. Then during the extraction itself, she was screaming at the top of her lungs, trying to get out of the chair, and it took several people to hold her still. It was so traumatic for both of us. She cried all the way home from the dentist. DH cried too, actually. The only way I have talked her into going back (she has a cleaning in a couple weeks) is by telling her that this time she will get to see her dentist, and not have to go to that one again.
So that's our experience, I am doing the laughing gas at least, every time from now on for her.

When my daughter was almost 7 we opted to put her under to fix her 8 cavities (one ended up being a crown, so I was very glad we went this route.) I too was very nervous about giving her anesthesia, but she has anxiety and I knew that I would never get her to the dentist again if we had them do it in the office. Everything went really smoothly and the dentist said he actually can do better work this way, because the child isn't wiggling and feeling stress. My daughter still has no fear of the dentist so that is worth it to me. ( I think I have more anxiety about the dentist than she does!) I know the cost is expensive, I was calling the office frequently asking about why it cost soo much. But I think if you can afford it, it is worth it in the long run.

My now 8 year old son has a form of arthritis that makes it very uncomfortable for him to open his mouth wide enough for dental procedures. He has been put under anesthesia 3 times now for dental work. He has done very well waking up and we have been very happy with it. They should require a full history and physical from your pediatrician before using anesthesia though (if it's general or iv sedation) This is just a precaution to rule out any known reasons your child may have difficulty with sedation. I wish you the best of luck and will be thinking of you.


Have you tried taking him to a pediatric dentist? My daughter freaked out when the regular dentist tried to numb her for a cavity, but was better with the pediatric dentist. She even got to watch a movie while they did it! She was still scared the first time, but it was a breeze after that. I've taken my daughter to Dr. Melissa Morrow in Haslett.

My now 13 year old was VERY combative in the dentist chair when she was 6 and needed fillings. We opted to have her go under for the procedure. Very fast and VERY worth it!! If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at ____@____.com

WAHM of 6

I don't know much about laser dentistry but, when my middle daughter was 4 she had cavities that required a pulpotomy (essentially a root canal) :(
I was worried about anesthesia but the procedure only lasted about an hour and they were able to take care of everything in one visit.
When she woke up from the anesthesia, she was very ornery and groggy. I had a baby at the time and ended up having to carry my daughter out to the car and one of the nurses carried the baby.

After a few hours, and veggie on mom's bed, she was fine :)
I would suggest you talk to your dentist about the two procedures and find out the pros and cons and see if he could put you in contact with mom's who have gone through this as well.

Good luck!


Hi K.,

My son is also "allergic" to metal aka needles lol, thats how the dentist put it, quite funny. Anyway, we had him sedated with versed and the fillings went great, everything was done within a morning and he was back to himself by mid afternoon. The only problem that we had was that he had a reaction to the versed and he was angry and defiant after he came out, he wanted to walk to the car but couldn't even stand up and put up a fuss when we wouldn't let him, but that was very short lived and he doesn't remember it at all, so, no harm done. It is not a common reaction and I wouldn't say it would happen to your son, but something to ask about maybe, if they use that particular drug. I would NOT recommend laser. Our good friend is a dentist and he won't work on kids that are not frozen and if they won't let him freeze he sedates because it is too dangerous for the dentist and the child to work on someone that is upset. If the patient moves and ends up getting cut or worse with a laser, then the dentist is at fault and its just a bad situation. I highly recommend the sedation, much less traumatic and no needles, and best of all, your child will not be afraid to go back to the dentist!

Good luck,
S., SAHM of 4 boys ages 10,9,6,and 2.

I prefer light anesthesia myself. I hate the shots. I've never experienced any problems with it.

I have a son who had to be put under general anesthesia, until he was 12. He has great fears. He wasn't happy about being put under either, but the dental work was completed all at once. Less stress for me. I say go for it.

Hi K., the laser dentistry is great if the cavities aren't deep. If they are of any size, it won't work. Your dentist should have already gone over that with you I"m guessing. As far as the anesthesia goes, I'm not sure if you're talking general, in the hospital, or the laughing gas, or oral sedations. At 4 years old, I'm hoping you're talking about an oral sedation in the dentist office. Even with those medications, the dentist will numb up your sons mouth, if the cavities are large. One big misunderstanding people get when being refered to our office, we dont' put kids to sleep, they are awake, but dont' remember what happened after the appointment. Some kids fuss, even sedated, they dont' want anyone in their mouth, but the work can get done and its safe for everyone. If I can help out or answer any other questions, feel free to contact me.I'm a dental assistant at a pediatric office. Good luck, and trust your dentist, if you don't, find another one. Its the same as with your pediatrician, you need to trust who you're going to.:)Sue

My son is 9 and was fearful of the dentist when he needed a cavity filled. The dentist suggested anesthesia. It didn't "put him under." Instead, it was just a mask with a light anesthesia that helped him to relax. Things went great! My older son wishes the doctor had an anesthesia mask for when he needs to get shots!


my daughter has had to have anethesia twice because she is so fearful and uncooperative about getting shots with needles in her mouth. The experience was probably worth it but is no 'picnic' either. First of all they have to get a shot in the arm for the anethesia...and an IV-- we had to hold her down for that while she screamed! It only took a few seconds for her to fall asleep-- thank god! Secondly when they wake up from anethesia, they are extremely emotional and 'out of it'--she had to be carried to the car. My daughter cried and cried afterwards for about an hour both times. She had this done at 4 years old and at 9 years old. I hope this helps.

I was a pediatric dental assisant for 3 years. If the dentist wants to give your child a little laughing gas there is no harm and makes the child a more relaxed. If he wants to give you child any other kind of sedation I would find a new dentist. My advice is to find a new dentist, a pediatric dentist is always best because they are trained in the care of children.. General or family dentist tend to want to sedate the child after one difficult appointment.

Hi K.,

My daughter was about the same age when she needed a bunch of dental work done and we had her put under because she did the same thing and freaked out when the dentist went to numb her so we decided to have her put under so that she wouldn't have a bad dental experience and not want to go to the dentist and now she loves going and has no problem having the gas and then they numb her so she doesn't feel a thing. I haven't heard of the laser dentistry so I can't tell you about that. It was very scary to have her put under because they gave her a shot first to be able to put the IV in and that was freaky to see her eyes open but she was completely still and wouldn't feel the IV. I did not care for the shot but all in all it was a good experience and she isn't afraid of the dentist. Matter of fact she get so excited when she gets to go see the dentist and get her teethe cleaned. I hope this helps a bit.


K. Wedow

I have never heard anything about the lazer so I dont have any advice on that, but as far as local or full sleep here is a bit. When I was littler I had to get my wisdom teeth taken out and they said they could either do a local or light anesthesia, and I asked for the light anesthesia. I dont remember much of any of it. I had no pain for about 3-4 hours afterwards either because AFTER I was asleep they did the local so it was numb there as well. I had to get the local numerous times for cavities and it does hurt. If it is in your budget, i'd say try the light anesthesia. It would probably go over alot better.


My son is seven and has had 8 cavities filled while under "laughing gas". It helps a lot since he is quite afraid of denists. It took until he was 6 to get him to see a dentist and we knew he had cavities. We see a pediatric dentist which helps and the dentist suggested the "gas" to help with the fillings. The cost is not that bad, especially if your insurance covers half. Also, if you can't get them filled you could be looking at much greater cost in root canals and/or caps. It is worth it!

My son, now 9, has had laser treatment done twice. If you could, I would absolutely request it. My son said he didn't feel a thing. He has also had it done the old fashioned way-he definitely likes the laser better!

My very wonderful pediatric dentist recommended the liquid medicine versed. Its a very low dose of something similar to valium and my son would get a little loopy then was fine with whatever the dentist had to do. Also, he uses nitrous but only over the nose and its such a low dose they don't fall asleep.

I have a little girl who is terrified of needles so I was worried about the dentist for her we found a dentist that did laser dentistry and oh my gosh she just sat there and let him fill cavities. (She tried to bite the nurse when she got her shots)he explained that it kinda felt like popping on your teeth it does not hurt so I would say go for the laser it has made our appointments a lot easier.

I've not ever heard about the laser dentistry but my son has always had to have anesthesia for his dental work. He has had a lot of work and when it comes to his "nerves" and mine, I really prefer having him have the gas. He's still awake for the procedures but is drowsy. It doesn't take long to have him come out of it either. I would suggest to take him to a pediatric dentist as well, because they seem to deal better with the little ones.

If the cavities are of a certain size, they can use the laser without any numbing. Last year when my daughter was six, she had five cavities in between her molars. She had the laser done with no shots or anything. She had no problems. While she didn't feel nothing, she never said it hurt or cried. They did one side of the mouth on one visit and the other side on another visit. She didn't even try to get out of going back, so I know it couldn't have been painful; otherwise, she would have fought to not to have to go back. The one I go to is Riverwood in Meridian. The staff is very friendly and nice.

I'm going through this right now with my eight year old. When he was first getting teeth he didn't have any enamal on his baby teeth. I stopped taking him in and now the problem has moved to his permanent teeth. The poor boy has to have a root canal and four of his baby teeth pulled. He may need braces. This time he has to go under general anetisia(sp) I feel you should do it now, to save trouble for later years. everything went fine with my son. Your child probably won't even remember it. Good luck!!!

Our son had to have cavities filled when he was 5 and he did not do well with even teeth cleaning. Our dentist used laughing gas to make him comfortable and it worked great. They told him the mask was like being an astronaut and he thought that was fun. They said it wouldn't be covered by our insurance, but in the end it was. Good luck!

I have a close family member in the dental field and I am also in the dental field. Light anesthesia for dentistry is often used and in many cases preferred for young children. It makes the experience for the child much easier and they don't take any negative memories away from the experience. Keeping a good attitude toward dental care is essential for young children because they will take better care of their teeth throughout their lives.
The offices I have worked in have not used the laser treatment, so I don't have any advice on that.

We've always taken our children to a pediatric dentist for anything that needed to be done. They've got it set up just for kids. The waiting room has a movie theater-like section with a really big tv and actual movie theater seats. There are video games to play, toys, books, etc. The best part is that they have flat screen tv's mounted on the ceiling above each exam table and the child gets to choose what to watch as well as wear headphones. They've put a lot of effort into making the kids comfortable and it works really well. Even with all of that the dentist usually uses a little nitrous oxide for every procedure, or if the child is uncomfortable. They typically aren't "put under" because the laughing gas is enough to relax them. It was worth it to me because my dd will need a lifetime of orthodontic work and neither child is afraid of the dentist.

I'm not familiar w/laser dentistry. That may be worth looking into. ??

Hi, My husband is a dds at our office Corpuz Family Dentistry. I would think you need a second opinion. We don't put people out for fillings at our office. You may want to check with another dentist or two. Feel free to call our office if you would like, ###-###-####, Good luck, S.

K., i am scared of dentists, i haven't been to one for years now not even for cleaning so i made sure my daughter (6 y/o) won't end up like me. She had few cavities filled 6 months ago, & i told the dentist i don't want her to freak out, or yell, or cry, or get scared...in other words i don't want her to have a bad experience & be scared to come back. The dentist talked to me about anesthesia and i agreed after researching about it. It was done at a hospital, & 4 more kids had the same procedure that day & my daughter was happy to see 2 kids, one ahead of her & the other to be done an hour after her. The anesthesiologist used a mask to put her out, the dentist did the work & it was over after an hour. She was groggy afterwards & couldn't stand up, she cried a little bit 'coz she was feeling so weak, but overall it was a great experience. Now she's excited to see the dentist for cleaning.
Talk to your dentist about the whole procedure & read about it on the internet, it's a little expensive but it's woth it, anything for our kids, right?


My kids have had a mixture of demerol, vistaril, phenergan, and then laughing gas (maybe some verset too). I think it was totally worth it. The kids don't remember anything negetive about the dentist, and it's not a huge tramatic battle for myself or the dentist either. I wouldn't do it any other way. Good luck!

K., Ask your dentist if you can try some benadryl, and start out with a numbing gel on his gums. The benadryl will make him sleepy and calmer. If it is serious enough to think about anestesia, why not try a simpler way to calm him first. Find out what your son's fears are. Even though many are not advocates of drugs, dental work is necessary. anything painful may give him more fears. good luck, K.

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