If you have a very small child who requires dental work, your pediatric dentist may recommend general anesthesia for the procedure. For many parents, the idea of general anesthesia on a toddler or preschooler can be somewhat unnerving. It is important that you understand why your child's dentist might recommend general anesthesia, what alternatives you can pursue, and what the risks of general anesthesia are for young patients. Below are five things that parents should know about general anesthesia for pediatric dentistry.
General Anesthesia May Be Recommended for Uncooperative Patients
In most cases, dentists will try to avoid general anesthesia. It is mostly recommended for uncooperative patients. Uncooperative patients are considered those who do not have the capacity to understand dental work and cooperate with the dentist. For example, children younger than 4 or those with developmental disabilities may not be able to understand why they are receiving dental work and may be traumatized by the sounds and feelings of invasive dental procedures even after the reasoning for these procedures is explained to them. For these patients, it may be psychologically better to administer general anesthesia than to try to restrain them or convince them to cooperate with the procedure.
For Some Patients, There Are Alternatives to General Anesthesia
For slightly older patients, such as those who are 4 or 5 years old, traditional dental treatment with local anesthesia may be used. However, it is important that the dentist has plenty of time before the procedure to explain the procedure and gain the child's trust. This may take several appointments. Additionally, a pediatric dentist may recommend a low-dose of oral sedative that will help the child relax and cooperate during the procedure. Known as "sleeping dentistry," your child will still be awake but will likely not remember the dental procedure.
General Anesthesia Has Improved In Safety Over the Years
Many parents are concerned with the safety of general anesthesia. However, the understanding of anesthesia and protocols for its use have improved in recent years. For example, deaths related to anesthesia have decreased 97% since the 1940s. General anesthesiologists have more experience and a greater understanding of how anesthesia works, and pediatric anesthesiologists focus specifically on the needs of small children.
General Anesthesia Will Likely Have Short-term Side Effects
Even after general anesthesia wears off, your child may experience several short-term side effects. For example, they may feel groggy or have trouble walking or running normally for a day or more after their procedure. It is important that you prepare for these side effects, as they can be disorienting and somewhat frightening for small children who do not understand why they are experiencing them. Preparing a relaxing environment and taking time off of work to provide one-on-one attention to your child can help reduce the negative psychological effects of these side-effects.
It Is Important to Weigh the Risks and the Benefits of General Anesthesia
While general anesthesia has improved in recent years, it is important to recognize that there are still risks to general anesthesia. Your child's dentist may want to reduce these risks by waiting for your child to gain more weight or to gain enough maturity to complete a procedure with local anesthesia. In these circumstances, they may recommend aggressive home care, such as brushing more often and applying topical calcium, phosphate, or fluoride. However, if decay spreads into your child's roots and causes your child pain or puts the adult teeth at risk, your dentist may decide that general anesthesia is less of a risk than continuing to wait for your child to reach a more appropriate age for dental treatment.
To make an appointment, contact a dental office like Little Peoples Dentistry.