A parent’s guide to general anesthesia in the dental office
For the Parent
Many children suffer from serious and painful dental problems. Unlike a cold or the flu, dental diseases do not go away on their own. Without treatment, dental disease may adversely affect your child's learning, communication, nutrition, and other activities that are necessary for normal growth and development. When treatment is planned, general anesthesia can help to make the procedure safe and comfortable.
What is anesthesia?
Anesthesia is the result of gas or medication that allows the patient to be pain-free and unaware during a surgical procedure.
Why use general anesthesia just to have teeth fixed?
General anesthesia is an accepted standard of care for children who have disabilities, are uncooperative, or require dental care that is otherwise difficult to deliver. General anesthesia is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Anesthesia today is safer than it has ever been due to stringent practice standards, and advances in technology and pharmacology (medications).
- Please have your child drink plenty of water the day before surgery to make IV placement easier.
- Your child must have an empty stomach on the day that anesthesia is given. This reduces the danger of vomiting and inhaling stomach contents into their lungs during the procedure.
- DO NOT give your child anything to eat or drink (including water) after midnight, the night before surgery OR 8 hours prior to your scheduled appointment. No gum, mints, or hard candy.
- Your child should take all of his or her regularly prescribed medications unless instructed otherwise by the doctor. Medicines should be taken ONLY with a small sip of water.
- Our office will call you the day or evening before surgery to answer questions and provide instructions for surgery.
- Have your child wear loose and comfortable clothing.
- Remove all jewelry, including piercings, from your child.
- Please have your child come with hair loose without any hair clips or rubber bands.
- Remove any nail polish from hands and feet.
- A parent or legal guardian MUST accompany the patient to the appointment and be here the entire time. The parent will not be allowed to leave the premises during your child’s procedure for any reason.
- You must have a responsible adult available to accompany you and your child home. You will not be allowed to drive your child home due to the child needing to be accompanied in the back seat by a parent or legal guardian.
- Change in Health — If there is any change of health, especially the development of a cold, cough, flu, or fever it is extremely important that the anesthesiologist be informed. Please notify the office if there is any change in the patient's health.
Day of Surgery
What should my child wear?
Your child should wear loose-fitting clothing with short sleeves. Because your child’s clothing may become stained during the procedure, bring a change of clothes for them. If your child wears diapers or pull-ups, bring extras. Please no “onesies”.
Can I be present while my child is going to sleep?
No, the surgery center is a sterile environment for office personnel with proper attire only.
Do I need to stay while my child is undergoing the procedure?
Yes, at least one parent or legal guardian is required to remain at the facility during the surgery and recovery.
What’s going on in the operating room?
The doctor will have your child breathe a mixture of oxygen and anesthetic gases. After your child is asleep, a breathing tube (endotracheal tube) will be inserted into your child's airway. This offers protection and is the means to provide oxygen and the anesthesia that will keep them asleep during the procedure. An IV (intravenous) line will be started. This is used for administering fluids and any medication that may be necessary. The doctor will continuously monitor your child's heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, oxygen level, temperature, and breathing during the entire procedure.
Recovery (post-anesthesia) Instructions
- Recovery — Your child will be sleepy or groggy and occasionally disoriented and agitated. This is normal and should resolve by the next day. The patient should be under adult supervision for the remainder of the day.
- Eating and drinking — Limit oral intake to liquids for the first few hours. Begin with water and follow with liquids such as sport drinks, and clear juice as tolerated. Suggestions are: soft foods such as scrambled eggs, applesauce, yogurt, mashed potatoes, and soups. If the child is not hungry, do not force him or her to eat, but encourage as much liquid as tolerated. Be aware that local anesthetic can numb lips and tongue for a few hours after surgery, which can be bothersome to some patients.
- At this time, you may also start liquid Ibuprofen every 4 to 6 hours as needed for pain and swelling.
- Activity — Do not let your child engage in moderate to high-level physical activity for 24 hours and/or until the effects from the anesthetic have completely subsided. Let the child wake up naturally.
- Nausea and vomiting — This is the single most common side effect of anesthesia. If you notice this, continue to encourage your child to drink water to avoid dehydration. It may be possible to have vomiting for as long as one entire day.
When to call the office
1. If vomiting persists beyond 5 hours
2. If temperature remains elevated beyond 24 hours or goes above 101F
3. If there is difficulty breathing