How General Anesthesia Works for Pediatric Dental Patients

July 3, 2019 Mitten Kids Dentistry

Pediatric Sedation Dentists in Grand Rapids, MI

Whether your child is scheduled for a major dental procedure at a local hospital or you are concerned with making sure your special needs child receives quality dental care, it’s important that you know how general anesthesia works.

Below, you will find information on what you can expect if your child needs to go under general anesthesia for a dental procedure. For more information, we recommend you consult with our pediatric sedation dentists.

Laughing Gas

Before we get into general anesthesia, we wanted to highlight a common alternative. Laughing gas (also known as nitrous oxide) is great for simpler less invasive procedures like dental sealants, cavity filling, and teeth cleaning. 

Our pediatric dentist will administer the laughing gas through a mask covering your child’s nose and the gas will start to take effect after your child takes a few deep breaths.

Laughing gas helps your child remain calm and relaxed while awake and aware throughout the procedure. Plus, it wears off relatively soon after the mask is removed. 

How does General Anesthesia Work?

Before driving to the dentist’s office or local hospital, be sure that you follow our pediatric dentists’ instructions. For example, you must make sure that your child doesn’t eat or drink for a certain length of time before being sedated. This prevents your child from vomiting and aspirating their stomach contents.

A general anesthesiologist for pediatric patients administers oral medication to help your child feel drowsy and relaxed. An IV is then started to give your child the correct drug dosage that will put them completely under. Throughout the procedure, the anesthesiologist is responsible for monitoring the vital signs of your child.

What Can I Expect after My Child Wakes Up?

After the pediatric dental procedure, you will be asked to be present as your child wakes up from being sedated. Holding your child’s hand as they wake up can help relieve anxiety and make them feel safe. We also recommend you bring an item that’s comforting to your child, such as a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.

After you bring your child home, you will have to periodically check their breathing. Taking them back to school or daycare is not an option after being put under dental sedation.

Side effects of pediatric general anesthesia may include the following:

  • Grogginess
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of physical coordination

Major Dental Procedures

General anesthesia for children may be necessary if they require a major dental procedure. Usually, the procedure is scheduled to take place at a local hospital where our qualified pediatric dentists and their team will meet you.

An anesthesiologist will also be present to ensure that your child is safely sedated during the procedure. The anesthesiologist is also responsible for monitoring the vital signs of your child while they are under anesthesia, which includes heart rate and respiration.

Parents may choose general anesthesia when children need multiple teeth treated at once. This helps decrease the child’s anxiety and makes the experience less painful. General anesthesia is also used for special cases where the child cannot be safely treated in the dentist’s office.

Special Needs Children

Children with special needs may not be able to sit still for long periods of time for cavity removal or other dental procedures. As a result, parents may decide that the safest option for their child is sedation dentistry.

For major dental procedures, special needs children may need to be put under general anesthesia. This way, they don’t move or jerk away while the dentist is trying to drill a tooth.

Autism has only increased in recent years, making it a popular topic of concern among parents seeking dental care for autistic children. For a child on the autism spectrum, the bright lights and strange noises while sitting in the dentist’s chair can prove to be too much sensory stimulation.

To prevent children with autism from experiencing anxiety or trying to bolt from the dentist’s office in the middle of dental treatment, you may be interested in consulting with our pediatric dentists about general anesthesia or other more mild forms of pediatric sedation.

Request an Appointment

If you are interested in our pediatric sedation services, please feel free to call our Grand Rapids pediatric sedation dentists at  (616) 942-9840. Mitten Kids Dentistry is dedicated to helping patients maintain beautiful smiles through healthy oral habits.

This blog post has been updated.

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