Our practice

Why do some children require sedation for dental procedures?

Many children get anxious at the dentist’s office. The fear of pain, the sound of drilling, or even brief separations from parents can be frightening. To ease these worries, dentists administer sedation to some children to facilitate their cooperation during the dental work. However, even under sedation, a few children still cannot tolerate dental procedures. As well, some children require extensive work, requiring them to remain calm and still for impossibly long periods of time. For these children, general anesthesia allows the dentist to complete the necessary dental care safely and efficiently, while minimizing fear and ensuring cooperation.

What’s the difference between sedation and anesthesia?

Sedation is the use of medicine to “take the edge off.” Children are still awake and responsive. For many, however, sedation is not enough since the sounds, smells, and sensations of dental work, while lessened, are still present.

General anesthesia is a more profound sleep during which children are not only unconscious, but also unresponsive. Dentists can work quickly because the children are relaxed and asleep. Because of the changes in the body caused by general anesthesia, medical specialists (anesthesiologists) are required to administer general anesthesia.

Is general anesthesia safe for children?

General anesthesia in healthy patients is very safe in the hands of experienced anesthesiologists. Pediatric anesthesiologists have the additional training needed to extend this safety to the youngest patients.

Experienced in the administration of general anesthesia medicines to children as well as recognizing the sometimes subtle changes children undergo during general anesthesia, pediatric anesthesiologists are uniquely qualified to care for children. Using state-of-the-art monitoring, he or she can ensure a child is asleep, comfortable, and safe during the procedure. Every effort is made to minimize both the time your child is anesthetized and the time it takes to emerge from the effects of the medicine.

How does the process work?

Prior to the day of a child’s appointment, a pediatric anesthesiologist contacts the parents by telephone to discuss the child’s health and the general anesthesia procedure. Parents have the opportunity to discuss concerns and have questions about general anesthesia answered. The pediatric anesthesiologist will ask that the child not eat or drink the day of the appointment. While sometimes difficult to accomplish, doing so helps reduce many of the risks of general anesthesia.

The parents are asked to arrive early to finalize paperwork and allow time to perform any last-minute assessments the child may need. Just prior to beginning the procedure, the pediatric anesthesiologist will give the child a medicine to help them feel less anxious, smoothing the transition minutes later into the dental chair.

After placing an intravenous catheter, medicine is given to make the child fall asleep. To ensure enough oxygen throughout the procedure, the pediatric anesthesiologist then places a breathing tube into the airway and carefully monitors the child’s breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. At the procedure’s end, before the child fully awakens, this tube is removed.

What is the financial obligation?

Dental work under general anesthesia is less expensive in a dental office than in a hospital or surgery center. Fees for general anesthesia are based on the length of the procedure. Your dentist can provide you with an estimate of how much time he or she will require to complete all the work your child needs.

General anesthesia payments are handled separately from those for the dental procedure. A down payment is required when scheduling your child’s general anesthesia appointment. The remainder is required on the day of the procedure. Acceptable forms of payment are credit card, check, or money order. Health insurance policies may cover some or all of the cost of general anesthesia; a receipt will be given to you on the date of service which you can submit to your insurance carrier.