Sometimes it's necessary for a child to be unconcscious in order for the dentist to safely complete needed dental treatment. General anesthesia puts a child into a deep sleep. He or she is unable to feel pain or to move around. This is the same kind of sleep a child would have if he or she were to have ear tubes placed or tonsils removed. Your dentist may recommend general anesthesia if your child:
- Can't relax or calm down enough for treatment to be performed safely, even with conscious sedation and other behavior management techniques in order for treatment to be performed safely.
- Needs oral surgery or other dental treatment that would be difficult for the child to tolerate while awake.
- Needs a lot of dental work that can best be done in one long appointment rather than many shorter visits.
- Has a medical, physical or emotional disability that limits his or her ability to understand directions and be treated safely in an outpatient setting.
Although general anesthesia is often the best choice in these cases, it also carries some risk. Your dentist should discuss the risks and benefits with you and explain why it might be right for your child.
General anesthesia for dental procedures can be provided by an anesthesiologist, dental anesthesiologist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon. The professionals are trained to deliver the medications and monitor the child during the procedure and handle any complications that may occur.
A physical examination before receiving general anesthesia is required to ensure your child doesn't have any conditions that could interfere with or be affected by the anesthesia. If your child is sick on the day of the scheduled procedure, call to see if the appointment should be rescheduled.
On the Day of the Appointment
- Follow the guidelines of the doctor providing the anesthesia gives you regarding food and fluid intake before and after the procedure
- Briefly discuss the procedure with your child; use simple terms that he or she can understand. Talk to them about the hospital visit and treatment several days before the appointment, to give them time to think about it and to ask questions. Also, each parent will have his or her ideas on how best to prepare their child.
- Let your child rest quietly at home after the procedure. He will probably be ready to resume his normal schedule the next day.