General Anesthesia

A child may need general anesthesia to fix their teeth in certain situations, such as:

It is important to note that general anesthesia is only used in cases where other forms of behavior management, such as nitrous oxide or conscious sedation, are not sufficient or appropriate. The use of general anesthesia is always accompanied by a licensed anesthesiologist and carried out in a safe and controlled setting, such as a hospital or dental surgery center.

Common Questions about General Anesthesia

I’m scared of the risks of General Anesthesia. Can you tell me more?

Sure. Your child’s safety is our number one priority. For that reason, in-office treatment is reserved for children who are 3 or older, and must weigh at least 30 pounds and be in good overall health. Our anesthesiologists are experienced clinicianc who work with dental offices around the state. At Oxford Pediatric Dentistry, we do not “cut corners” and our anesthesiologists are no exception to this rule. Strict guidelines for anesthesia are followed, so that your child’s risk is the lowest achievable.

Parents may worry that their child may suffer harm during general anesthesia, or even worse, that they may not wake up from GA. But GA is quite safe for virtually all of our patients, as long as they don’t suffer from chronic diseases like cancer or heart disease, and they don’t have problems with their heart, lungs, brain, or blood. For patients that have any chronic or questionable health issues, our pediatric dentist will take these patients to regional ambulatory surgery centers. To put the risk of death during general anesthesia in perspective – the pediatric medical literature suggests the risk of death is far less than that the risk of death from an accident while driving with your child in the car. That risk is so small, that we do not even think about it as we put our child into their carseat. Remember, the risk for a problem during GA is far smaller – about 1 in 400,000. In all of the time we've treated children under general anesthesia, there has never been a child with an adverse event. Other risks are that a short-term low grade fever, sore throat, and general malaise for the day of surgery.

I have never heard of putting a child to sleep for dental work – why would parents choose that for their children?

As a pediatric dentist, our doctor is responsible for making sure that a child gets to adulthood with all of their permanent teeth. Along the way, we sometimes have to face difficult decisions about how to fix baby teeth that may not fall out until 13 years of age.  For children that need these teeth to be fixed, it may be too emotionally difficult to insure that the child will have experiences that they can conquer. Thus for these children, the benefits of GA definitely outweigh the risks. In suggesting general anesthesia for your child, we have already considered the risks of treating your child using other methods. These risks of "forcing" treatment on a child who cannot handle it include:

The risks of NO treatment at all includes:

Asking why parents would choose this is also a question we’ve thought about before. We know why we recommend it, but sometimes it’s useful for parents to hear from other parents who have been through this with us. We’ve got you covered! When we polled parents who experienced GA for their children, these points were cited as reasons why they chose to have treatment under GA for their children:

Will my child remember anything after surgery?

Your child’s experience is designed to be as positive as possible. On the morning of surgery, your child will drink a little medicine, which will cause them to relax, and potentially may make them more tired. An important feature of this medication is that there is a slight amnesic effect, which will make your child more forgetful temporarily. The last thing your child will remember is breathing some nitrous oxide through a mask, and then drifting off to sleep. The next thing they will remember is waking up as if they’ve been asleep, in our recovery area with their parents. Post-op instructions are given to the parents, but the experience for children is similar to just falling asleep.

Oxford Pediatric Dentistry offers 24h call services for our young patients who undergo dental treatment under general anesthesia, so answers to your questions are just a phone call away.