Preschool-age children with cavities, and older kids with fear and anxiety often require sedation before a dentist can go to work.The type of sedation a child might need depends on several factors, such as the child’s age, ability to tolerate a procedure, medical history, severe gag reflex and the extent of tooth decay.The motives, he said, could widely vary, such as overwhelmed parents looking for a break, amusement or punishment."Anytime you're giving a medication for any other purpose other than for what it's explicitly prescribed for, you run the risk of harming your child," Yin said.But in more ordinary, everyday circumstances, the ethical boundaries are hazy.
In a 2005 case, a Montana day care owner was convicted of killing a 1-year-old after giving a fatal dose of cough medicine to put the child to sleep.
"If moms are at wit's end and the stress is building up and they're tired, that's not a good use of over-the-counter medications." Some parents use drugs to calm their children down in airplanes.
Smokler gave her daughter, who was then 1 1/2 years old, some Benadryl, expecting her to sleep through the two-hour flight. Benadryl, an antihistamine used to relieve irritated eyes, sneezing and a runny nose, had an energizing effect on her daughter.
Each case has different elements and motives, so it's hard to generalize whether deliberate medicating of a child is abuse, said James Hmurovich, the president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America.
"If it's for medical a reason, that's one thing," Hmurovich said.
"This is what I get for trying to dope up my kid." She never tried it again.