Pediatric General Anaesthesia

Key points

  • What is General Anaesthesia?
  • How is General Anaesthesia Given to Children?
  • Is General Anaesthesia Safe for Infants & Toddlers?
  • What are the Benefits of Using General Anaesthesia on Children?
  • Are There Side Effects to General Anaesthesia?
  • Questions to Ask Your Child’s Dentist & General Anaesthetist
  • Preparing Your Child for General Anaesthesia
  • Recovering from General Anaesthesia
  • General Anaesthesia at Pure Dentistry

When keeping your child healthy, medical or dental intervention is sometimes necessary. After all, children are notorious for sustaining injuries and requiring dental assistance as they practice good oral hygiene habits and learn how to navigate the world safely. Unfortunately, undergoing medical or dental treatment can often be stressful for a child, particularly if they’re young, have a disability, or require extensive care.

In these circumstances, dental work for children under general anaesthesia may be the best option to help your child receive the necessary dental care they require as comfortably and safely as possible. If your child needs dental treatment that may require pediatric general anaesthesia, the dental experts at Pure Dentistry can help. Here’s what you should know about general anaesthesia for children before scheduling your free consultation with the trusted team at Pure Dentistry.

What is General Anaesthesia?

General anesthesia is a medication used to sedate a person to perform a test, procedure, or operation. While other sedation methods can assist a patient in staying calm and relaxed during medical treatments, general anaesthesia is used to keep a patient entirely unconscious during the extent of their procedure, ensuring that they feel and remember nothing.

How is General Anaesthesia Given to Children?

Unlike other sedation methods, such as twilight sedation or nitrous oxide, general anaesthesia is administered and monitored exclusively by a trained anesthetist in a hospital setting. General anaesthesia can be given to your child in several ways, including:

  • A face mask in which the child will inhale the anaesthetic in the form of a ga. This works particularly well for young children.
  • An intravenous line (IV) that carries the anaesthetic to your child’s vein.

Your preference for how your child will be given general anaesthesia will be considered; however, the anaesthetist will recommend the best method based on your child’s specific medical history and circumstances.

Is General Anaesthesia Safe for Infants & Toddlers?

The thought of having your child sedated can be scary for many parents, especially if your child is a baby or toddler. General anaesthesia is safe for children under the age of five and even babies under 12 months. During their procedure, your child will be closely monitored by an anaesthetist and a professional medical team, ensuring they stay safe and healthy from the moment they fall asleep until the medication has fully worn off.

What are the Benefits of Using General Anaesthesia on Children?

While having your child sedated during a dental procedure can seem overwhelming to many parents, it’s important to note that general anesthesia is extremely common and perfectly safe for most children when performed by a trained professional in the appropriate setting. Additionally, pediatric general anaesthesia comes with many benefits, including:

  • Safety: Because your child will be asleep during their procedure, they won’t be crying, fighting, or squirming. This will allow the dentist to work quickly and efficiently, ensuring that they receive the thorough dental care they need without getting hurt.
  • Comfort: If your child needs in-depth or extensive dental work, treatment could be uncomfortable or even painful for them. Being sedated during treatment means your child won’t feel a thing.
  • Calming: Even under the best circumstances, going to the dentist can be an anxious experience for many children. By undergoing general anaesthesia, your child can stay calm, relaxed, and, best of all, won’t remember anything from their procedure, making future dental appointments smooth.

Are There Side Effects to General Anaesthesia?

As with any medication, side effects from general anaesthesia are possible in adults and children alike. Some of the most common side effects include:

  • Bruising from the needle where medications and fluids are administered; tends to be minor and short-lived.
  • A sore throat and hoarse voice from the breathing tube are used to help your child breathe during their procedure.
  • Nausea and vomiting, both from anxiety before and after treatment, as well as from the medications used during the procedure.
  • Drowsiness for several hours after coming off of the medication.

In some cases, more severe side effects can occur. The following side effects are all infrequent and unlikely to happen:

  • A severe allergic reaction to the anaesthetic.
  • Vomit entering your child’s lungs during treatment.
  • Being awake during the procedure.
  • Permanent damage to the lungs, brain, or heart.

Questions to Ask Your Child's Dentist & General Anaesthetist

Before your child’s procedure, their dentist will discuss the risks of general anaesthesia as well as their medical history with you. It’s essential to be clear and upfront about your child’s medical history and address any concerns you may have. Let your child’s dentist know:

  • If they’ve ever been sedated before and any issues they’ve experienced during sedation
  • What medication they’re taking
  • Any allergies your child has
  • Detailed information about your child’s medical and surgical history
  • Related family history

Along with your child’s dentist, having a thorough meeting with their anaesthetist before your child being sedated is critical. Here are some questions to ask your child’s anaesthetist before they administer general anaesthesia:

  • How should you prepare your child for treatment? How far in advance should they fast? Should they take or avoid certain medications before the procedure?
  • How long will the procedure take?
  • How likely is there to be a problem?
  • What would happen in the event of an emergency?
  • What can you expect after the procedure? How should you care for them in the day(s) following treatment?
  • How can you manage any pain/discomfort after their treatment?
  • When is their follow-up appointment?

Remember, as your child’s parent, you are their advocate. Do not be afraid to ask in-depth questions to get a complete picture of what undergoing dental treatment with pediatric general anaesthesia is like. When you know what to expect, you can prepare yourself and your child for what’s to come before, during, and after their procedure.

Preparing Your Child for General Anaesthesia

As your child’s parent, you have the power to influence how they feel going into the hospital for a procedure. With this in mind, it’s essential to take steps to help your child stay calm and relaxed, even if you are not. While you may be tempted to hide information from them to make them feel better, being honest yet positive is the best way to help them feel confident and calm. Before your child’s appointment, be sure to inform them that:

  • They’re going to the hospital.
  • They are having an important treatment done.
  • They will be given an anaesthetic that will put them to sleep, and they won’t remember or feel anything.

Be sure to avoid any details that might scare or overwhelm your child. Keep the conversation as light and positive as possible. Reassure them that you will be with them, the doctors are kind and helpful, and that you are proud of them for being so brave. Children can sense anxiety, so if you are calm and confident, it will be easier for them to embody those emotions.

Along with preparing your child mentally for their procedure, practical steps must be taken to ensure their experience with general anaesthesia goes as safely as possible. These include:

  • Follow the fasting instructions that your doctor gives your child before surgery. Failing to do so could put your child at risk of vomiting during surgery, which can cause serious problems. An empty stomach before treatment is essential.
  • Be sure to give your child pain medication if the dentist or anaesthetist recommends doing so. Please do not give your child any medication that is not approved by their doctor first.
  • If your child has a favourite doll or blanket, be sure to bring it with them to their procedure. It is also a good idea for you to stay with your child until they have been put to sleep to help them feel comfortable and safe.

Recovering from General Anaesthesia

Once your child’s treatment is complete, they will go into a recovery room until the anaesthesia has worn off. This process will take at least 20 minutes and will include a nurse monitoring your child for signs to ensure your child is:

  • Recovering as expected
  • Comfortable and their pain is being managed if necessary
  • Not nauseous or vomiting
  • Not bleeding at the surgical site

During this time, one parent will be allowed to stay with the child in the recovery room as they wake up. It’s very common for children to be sleepy or slightly disoriented for the remainder of the day following general anaesthesia. For this reason, it’s best to let your child rest at home after their procedure. School, sports, and other activities should wait until the next day or when the doctor recommends.

Likewise, your child may be uncomfortable or in pain after their procedure, especially if it involves surgery. Be sure to carefully read the instructions for administering pain medication to your child as needed while recovering from their procedure. If you are unsure about your child’s medication dosage, length of taking, or possible side effects, don’t hesitate to consult their dentist.

General Anaesthesia at Pure Dentistry

Your child deserves the best in safe, comfortable, professional dental care. If your child needs extensive dental work, is highly anxious, or has difficulty being calm and cooperative at the dentist, general anaesthesia may be a solution that ensures their dental experience is as effective, comfortable, and safe as possible. To learn more about how general anaesthesia could benefit your child during their next dental appointment, contact the friendly team at Pure Dentistry to schedule their free consultation. We can’t wait to give your whole family something to smile about with our progressive, compassionate dental care!

Also see dental treatment for children using laughing gas in Brisbane.