What to Ask Your Child’s Dentist About General Anesthesia
21 Aug 2019

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What to Ask Your Child’s Dentist About General Anesthesia

Are your kids still afraid of the dentist? That can’t be good, especially if they’re falling behind on their bedtime routine and are getting cavities. No one likes the image of being strapped down on the dentist’s chair just to get pearly whites and bright smiles back. Luckily, your kids don’t have to go through this.

Sedation dentistry uses general anesthesia to ensure the success of a particularly sensitive or extensive dental procedure. In children’s dentistry, this means putting kids to sleep, so they can remain perfectly still and relaxed while the dentist treats them to restore their bright, young smiles.

But let’s face it, putting your child under general anesthesia can sound quite scary, especially if you don’t know what to expect. After all, a lot of what we know about anesthesia is connected to extensive surgeries, and it’s important to know that this is not the case here. That’s why we went ahead and asked all the questions running through your mind, so you know exactly what to ask and expect from your child’s dentist.

Why You Need to Ask Your Child’s Dentist About General Anesthesia

As a parent, we know that you only want the best for your kids, and a huge part of that is advocating for their needs and well-being. So, when your child’s dentist says that your child needs to be put under for a tooth extraction, root canal, or cavity treatment, it’s important to understand why.

In children’s dentistry, dentists recommend general anesthesia to put kids perfectly at ease during treatment. Without flailing arms and legs, screaming, and anxiety, treatments are far more likely to proceed smoothly, ensuring success the first time around. It’s also important to know that general anesthesia is not administered lightly. That’s why when it comes up, make sure to ask your child’s dentist who provides it. You’ll know that you’re in the right hands if the anesthetic is administered by a certified dentist or pediatric dentist, or by a separate sedation or anesthetic practitioner in the clinic. Knowing this puts parents at ease, as they can guarantee that their kids are in the best hands.

Before the Procedure

Once your child’s dentist recommends putting your child under general anesthesia, make sure to ask these questions, so you can prepare for the procedure:

What do you need to know about my child?

Sure, it would be nice to know about their favourite stuffed animal and ice cream flavour, but it’s also important to ensure that your child’s dentist has all the information they need to proceed safely. Even for young kids, it’s common practice in children’s dentistry for dentists to require a complete medical history. This means evaluating your child thoroughly to make sure that allergies, current medication, and previous illnesses don’t cause complications during the procedure, and even throughout recovery. With a complete medical history, a children’s dentist can be certain that your child is a good candidate for general anesthesia.

Can I give my child anything to eat or drink?

No one likes seeing kids go hungry, but if your dentist is recommending general anesthesia for their procedure, you should know that there could be a cut-off for their food and liquid intake. Make sure to ask your child’s dentist about how long they should go without food or drink before the procedure. Sticking to the clock is very important here, as patients cannot be sedated if they had any food or liquid prior to the procedure. Your dentist may also be able to offer some tips for staving off any hunger pangs or parched throat, so you can keep your little one in good spirits before the procedure.

Does my child need any pre-op medication?

In children’s dentistry, many procedures require taking pre-operative medication for sedation. In some cases, these medications need to be taken at home, so that kids are ready to go once they’re in the clinic.

If your child’s dentist prescribes a pre-op sedative, make sure to get the right instructions for administering it at home. As well, don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything that you should look out for, such as indications that the medication has taken effect. And, most importantly, make sure to ask about the timing, as most pre-op meds need to be taken a few hours before the procedure to take effect.

Are you properly trained in administering sedatives?

This question sounds very upfront, but this is one of those moments when you absolutely need to advocate for your child by making sure that they are in the best hands. For safe and successful treatment under general anesthesia, it’s important to make sure that the sedative is administered by a trained practitioner who has a lot of experience with children’s dentistry.

This is also a good opportunity to ask about the clinic’s emergency protocol for children’s dentistry procedures. You’ll know that your child is in the best hands if the clinic staff is certified for emergency treatments. And while children’s dentistry procedures completed with general anesthesia are generally safe and thoroughly regulated, it’s still important to make sure that your child is expertly treated.

What are the dentist’s qualifications?

Aside from having the proper training to safely administer general anesthesia, especially at a dosage that is appropriate for children, it’s also important to know about the training and experience of your children’s dentist. This means asking if they have the necessary permits and licenses required to carry out the procedure, especially if it is extensive or quite invasive. And while most dental techniques are standard, entrusting your child with a dentist who is specifically trained or experienced in working with children can be the difference between a standard level of care and one that is specifically geared towards making your child feel fully comfortable to support their oral health.

What to Ask During the Procedure

It’s time to restore your child’s bright and healthy smile, but before that, don’t forget to sit down with the dentist to get clear information about the procedure and recovery:

What level of sedation will my child be under?

It’s important to know that even if your child is generally scared or anxious about dental procedures, general anesthesia isn’t the only answer. In some cases, dentists will only recommend minimal or moderate sedation wherein children are relaxed, but still generally awake; as well, some cases require only deep sedation wherein patients are barely awake. And of course, there’s general anesthesia wherein your child will be completely unconscious for the duration of the procedure and is expected to wake up in recovery. Knowing the difference between these levels of sedation is important, as they impact the length of time spent in recovery and how much assistance your child will require after the procedure.

How safe is the procedure?

Procedures in children’s dentistry are generally safe, including those performed under general anesthesia. Depending on the clinic, parents may not be allowed inside the operating or procedure room, so it’s important to ensure that your child is in safe hands.

Don’t hesitate to ask about how your child will be monitored during the procedure, as well as if the assisting staff are properly trained to assist in the treatment. And in the case of an emergency, you will want to make sure that the procedure room is stocked with the right emergency supplies and a proper response plan is in place. Asking about these isn’t designed to scare you, but to help you take care of your child, even when you’re not in the room.

After the Procedure

Your child’s dental treatment doesn’t end with the last stitch or pulled tooth; it’s the recovery period that can make or break their oral health, so don’t hesitate to ask your child’s dentist how you can best support them:

When will my child wake up?

If your child is placed under general anesthesia, you can expect that they won’t wake up right away and will need to be weaned off its effects in recovery. Make sure to get clear and detailed instructions from the clinic on how to take care of your child during this time. As well, it’s important to have emergency contact information on hand in case of any complication—not that you’ll need it with the right children’s dentist.

To learn more about general anesthesia and sedation dentistry, call Roots On Whyte Dental at (888) 602-2308, or contact us here to book an appointment.

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