Should I put my child under for dental work?

Pediatric dentists use anesthesia on children in special situations which require it. The pediatric dentist may recommend a general anesthesia for performing certain types of treatments which involve special circumstances. When anesthesia is used, the child will sleep through the entire procedure. They will not have any memory of the procedure itself. In cases where anesthesia is required, there are certain rules for eating and drinking prior to the procedure. There will also be some restrictions to follow after the procedure. Parents should plan to remain at the hospital for a majority of the day. They will need to wait for the anesthesia to completely wear off and ensure it is safe for the child to leave.

General Anesthesia

To ensure a child is safe and comfortable during some dental procedures, the dentist may suggest the use of general anesthesia in the operating room. For extensive or complicated procedures, general anesthesia also may be used. This is often the case if the procedure will take a long time or if multiple procedures are required for treatment. A pediatric anesthesiologist will administer the medication which will make the child sleep throughout the entire procedure.

General anesthesia works by making the child’s entire body fall asleep. For certain dental procedures and treatments, it is necessary to ensure their reflexes are fully relaxed. The child will not feel any pain during nor will they have any recollection of the procedure.

Preparation at Home

There are important rules for eating and drinking which must be followed when general anesthesia is required. A scheduling nurse will contact your family one business day prior to the procedure to discuss the instructions. The nurse will provide specific instructions to follow for eating and drinking which ae based on the age of the child. Regardless of the child’s age, the specific instructions must be followed closely without exceptions.

The following are instructions for infants who are less than 12 months old:

  • 6 hours prior to the scheduled arrival time: parents can give formula to formula-fed babies
  • 4 hours prior to the scheduled arrival time: mothers may nurse breastfed babies

For children who are over the age of one:

  • After midnight the night before the procedure: no solid foods or liquids other than clear. This includes the following: milk, formula, pulp-containing juices, coffee, gum and candy.
  • Up to 2 hours prior to the scheduled arrival time: the child can only have clear liquids. This includes the following: water and juices which are transparent like white grape or apple juice. Milk is not considered to be a clear liquid.
  • Unless you are specifically told to not give daily medication by the child’s doctor or scheduling nurse, daily medications can be given.

It can be difficult and uncomfortable to watch your child undergo anesthesia. It is true that children can sense the concern of their parents and it is important for parents to remain calm and encouraging. Below are a few ways to help comfort your child:

  • Bring an item which is comforting to the child along to the procedure. This may include their favorite toy, stuffed animal or a blanket. The child can hold this item while the anesthesia is being administered.
  • Hold the child’s hand or gently touch their face assure them of your presence.
  • Talk quietly or sing to the child as the sound of your voice can provide excellent reassurance for them.

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