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General Anesthesia/Sleep Dentistry

General Anesthesia, often referred to as “being put to sleep” or “sleep dentistry,” is a medical procedure that renders your child completely asleep in a pain-free environment, allowing for the safe provision of dental diagnostics and treatment. Treatment is completed in a hospital or surgical center setting and conducted as ‘outpatient’ surgery, meaning that the patient is usually able to go home a few hours after the procedure is finished. Dental treatment under general anesthesia is an effective way to provide care to apprehensive children, children too young to be able to sit in the dental chair for treatment, and children or adolescents with special health care needs.

The general anesthesia used when completing dental treatment is the same as that used in procedures like the placement of ear tubes or having tonsils removed. The choice to have dental treatment for your child under general anesthesia involves the consideration of many factors and can only be decided by you and your dentist together after a thorough exam has been completed. General anesthesia is necessary for only a small subset of pediatric patients. While the assumed risks can be greater than that of treatment in office or with the use of nitrous oxide, the benefits have significant positive effects on the quality of life for these children as well as their families. The use of general anesthesia is only suggested for a child when the benefits far outweigh the risks of this treatment.

General Anesthesia Instructions

Before Your Appointment
  • Your child will need to be seen by his or her pediatrician within 30 days prior to the hospital visit. The pediatrician will complete a pre-surgical medical clearance (short physical) letting us know that your child is healthy and cleared for treatment.

  • We will meet with you at the office to review what to expect the day of surgery for your child.

  • We review the tentative treatment plan and your child’s medical history including medications and allergies. At this time please let us know if your child has become sick or if there has been a change in any medical conditions of your child. To minimize any potential risks, only healthy children are eligible for general anesthesia. Sick children are rescheduled after they have regained full health. Typically this is between 2-4 weeks after the illness has passed.

  • It is important for us to know at this visit if your child has been experiencing pain, swelling, or a change in dental condition since we last saw your child, as this can drastically change the previously discussed treatment plan.

  • If your child was previously unable to take x-rays or sit for a complete exam, we may try one last time at this visit in order to help give you the best idea of the treatment he or she will need.

  • Foods and liquids must be restricted prior to surgery to decrease the risk of vomiting and aspirating any stomach contents which can lead to serious health risks. The hospital will give you specific guidelines on eating and drinking the night before your child’s surgery. Here is a quick reminder of those guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

Minimum fasting period

Clear liquids

(water, fruit juices without pulp, carbonated beverages and clear tea)

2 hours before sedation

4 hours before sedation

Breast milk

6 hours before sedation

Formula, non-human milk, and light meal

(toast and clear liquid)

Fried of fatty foods or meat

8 hours before sedation

*If the food and liquid restrictions are not complied to, surgery for your child will be cancelled that day and need to be rescheduled for your child’s safety

Type of Food/Liquid
Day-of Appointment
  • Please arrive early for your appointment. Arriving late may cause your child’s appointment time to be changed or forfeited.

  • Your child should continue to take all of his or her regularly prescribed medications the day of surgery unless specified otherwise.

  • Please dress your child in comfortable loose fitting clothing. Because your child’s clothing may become wet during the procedure it is a good idea to bring an extra change of clothing. If your child is still in diapers or potty training, placing your child in a clean dry diaper prior to surgery may help decrease the chance of your child having a potty ‘accident’ during/after surgery.

  • At least one parent or legal guardian is required to be present the day of surgery.

  • Although you will not be allowed to accompany your child during surgery it is a strict requirement that you remain at the facility during the surgery and recovery.

  • It is recommended to bring an additional adult with you and your child on the day of their surgery, so that one adult can accompany the child in the back seat during the ride home from the hospital.

  • Please try to limit the number of personal items your child brings (i.e. blanket, stuffed animal, favorite toy) to reduce the risk of these items being lost or forgotten at the hospital.

  • No siblings or additional children will be permitted the day of surgery. A hospital setting, and surgery can be intimidating to a child. Your child will want all of your love and undivided attention before, and after his or her procedure.

*If any abnormal symptoms occur contact the hospital immediately

After Your Appointment

The doctor will review all treatment completed and review post-operative instructions with you. You will be given a written copy of these instructions before leaving with your child


Signs & Symptoms of You Child After Surgery



  • Grogginess or sleepiness

  • Disorientation, crabbiness, easily agitated

  • Decreased/Increased appetite

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Slightly elevated temperature for the first 24 hours

  • Slight swelling of lips, gums, cheeks

  • Sore throat or nose

  • Bloody nose


  • Temperature above 101.5 ˚F

  • Elevated temperature lasting longer than 24 hours

  • Vomiting persisting beyond 5 hours

  • Difficulty breathing

Your child will need to be seen for a follow up appointment in the office 7-10 days following his or her surgery.

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