Anesthesia for Children

General Anesthesia

Is Anesthesia Right for Your Child?

To keep your child safe and comfortable during a dental procedure, your child’s dentist might decide to use general anesthesia in a hospital operating room. General anesthesia is indicated for children with a high level of anxiety or also may be used if your child needs extensive or complicated procedures that will take a long time to complete, or needs several procedures done all at the same time.

General anesthesia makes your child’s whole body go to sleep. It is needed for certain dental procedures and treatments so that his or her reflexes will be completely relaxed. Your child will be fully unconscious and feel no pain during the procedure, nor have any memory of it.

Dental Anesthesia for Children

Before undergoing any type of dental anesthesia or sedation, you will be asked about your child’s health history and any past complications with
anesthesia. At this time, you can also consult with your dentist about any questions or concerns you may have about the sedation process. An examination with your primary care provider may be necessary prior to undergoing anesthesia. The dentist may delay administration of anesthesia for children who have had recent vaccinations, illness, or a change in medications due to the potential for adverse reactions. The goal is to ensure that there is little or no memory of the procedure and that your child is in a very comfortable state for its duration.


Safety is our dentists’ number one priority. Specific measures are taken to ensure that your child’s health is protected throughout the dental procedure. An anesthesiologist is a medical doctor who specializes in anesthesia and will give your child the medications that will make him or her sleep soundly during the procedure. An IV line is placed after your child is already sleeping for administration of general anesthetic as well as emergency medications. If your child is under general anesthesia, their heart rate, temperature, and vital signs will be monitored continuously by the anesthesiologist. Although it is highly unlikely, if an emergency situation were to arise, our doctors and hospital
staff are trained to cope with such conditions swiftly and effectively. Please follow our pre-operative instructions and provide us with the most up to date medical information about your child to help our team ensure your child’s safety.

Preparing for Sedation or Anesthesia

You will be given a very specific set of pre-operative instructions prior to your child’s procedure. If your child will be undergoing anesthesia, it is of utmost importance that you follow these instructions precisely. You can expect the following guidelines:

  • You will need to obtain a physical from your child’s pediatrician and a pre-op appointment to be evaluated by the anesthesiologist at the hospital to ensure your child is healthy enough for the surgery.
  • After midnight the night before the procedure, do not give any solid food or non-clear liquids. That includes milk, formula, juices with pulp, coffee, and chewing gum or candy.
  • Up to 2 hours before the scheduled arrival time, give only clear liquids. Clear liquids include water, Pedialyte®, Kool-Aid®, and juices you can see through, such as apple or white grape juice. Milk is not a clear liquid.
  • If your child takes daily medication, you may give it unless specifically told not to do so by your child’s doctor or the scheduling nurse.
  • Reschedule your appointment if your child shows signs of illness, such as a cold or the flu.
  • Have your child wear loose-fitting clothing and a blanket. If possible, bring a change of clothing in case of bed wetting or vomiting.
  • Do not let your child wear cosmetics or nail polish to the procedure.
  • An adult must escort any child to the appointment and stay throughout the procedure to drive them home following discharge.
  • The parent or legal guardian must be present to give consent to the treatment.
  • You may be advised about your child taking certain medications the day of the procedure.

Following General Anesthesia

Once the procedures have been completed, your child will be taken to the recovery room where nurses will carefully check his or her vital signs. The effects of general anesthesia can last for many hours.

  • Your child’s nose, mouth, and throat may remain numb up to 2 hours after the procedure, please keep them from biting or scratching the
  • Nosebleeds, sore throat, or vomiting may occur after the surgery.
  • Your child’s gums and mouth may be sore for several days afterward, depending on the dental procedure. We encourage a soft, easy-to-chew diet for 2 days after the procedure for the patient’s comfort and for setting of the dental materials.
  • Your child may feel dizzy or feel like vomiting and should be monitored the rest of the day.
  • Your child may be tired and can be allowed to sleep on their side while being monitored by an adult. If your child begins to snore or make sounds while breathing, please reposition the head up to open the airway. If breathing becomes labored or sounds do not improve, please call us. Do not let your child sleep more than 4 hours.
  • Children may take an over the counter dose of Tylenol or Motrin for pain, your dentist will advise you if additional medications for pain
    management is necessary.

At-Home Care and Follow-Up Visits

  • Your child is not to return to school or day care that day, and you may need to see how he or she feels the next day. Sometimes the effects from general anesthesia — usually tiredness — can last into the next day. Your child will need to remain at home where an adult can monitor him or her.
  • Upon returning home, your child may only have minimal activity for the remainder of the day.
  • A follow-up visit is required 2 weeks after the procedure to evaluate healing.

When to Call the Dentist

If your child’s gums are sensitive, Tylenol® or Motrin® will help with any discomfort. If your child experiences the following for more than 24 hours following dental surgery done with anesthesia in the operating room, you should call the dentist:

  • fever
  • severe bleeding of the gums
  • severe pain
  • severe vomiting or dizziness
  • difficulty awakening (if you cannot awaken them at all, call 911)


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