What to Expect on a Typical Anesthetic Case


  • It is important to not eat or drink from midnight the night before the scheduled appointment or at least eight hours prior.
  • If you are taking medication, you might need to continue taking some while refraining from taking the others.  Follow the instructions of your anesthesiologist and managing physician.
  • Refrain from smoking at least one day prior to the procedure.  If you use a nicotine patch, please stop using it at least 24 hours prior to the anesthesia.
  • Have family member or trusted friend to escort you and be responsible to drive you back home after the procedure.
  • Do not plan anything for the remainder of the day.

A Child's Experience*

*This is based on a typical child's experience, but may differ based on the anesthesiologist

Getting Ready
Anesthetics are normally given in the morning because you cannot eat or drink before an anesthetic.  The child will wake up that morning, have nothing to eat or drink, be driven to their appointment wearing pajamas or loose fitting clothing.

Upon Arrival at the Office
Upon arrival at the office the child will be assessed to make sure he or she is fit for anesthesia and does not have a cold, flu, vomiting, diarrhea or sore throat.  If the child is healthy, he/she will be sedated.

Once the Child is Sedated
Once the child is sedated he/she will be taken to the treatment room and continuously monitored for safety.

After the Child is Asleep
After the child is asleep an intravenous catheter (IV) will be placed to rehydrate a fasting patient and to deliver medications quickly and efficiently.  This catheter will normally be placed on the top of the hand.  Once asleep an endotracheal tube will be inserted in your child’s nose to help them breath.  All the monitors, IV’s and tubes will remain in place for the duration of treatment.

After all dental treatment is completed, the endotracheal tube is removed and the child will be taken to a recovery room.  The child will remain in recovery for 30-45 minutes or until they respond appropriately.  Respond appropriately means opening their eyes, talking, or crying.

Instructions will be given on care for your child such as:

  • It is recommended that there be two adults present when you drive home so that one parent can sit next to the child. The child will likely sleep on the way home and will require close supervision for the first few hours following anesthesia as they may not be steady on their feet and may fall down.
  • It is not uncommon for children to be very hungry following anesthesia.  Let them eat whatever they can tolerate based on the extent and invasiveness of their treatment.  The recovery room nurse will most likely make suggestions about meal options.

Side Effects

Anesthetic drugs have occasional after effects including nausea, dizziness, sleepiness and loss of normal body coordination.  Some patients may experience a sore throat and minor aches.  Usually these effects will have dissipated within twenty four hours after discharge. The majority of patients don’t have dizzy spells or bodily weakness the next morning.  The decision to continue daily activities should be based on the presence of any unusual signs or symptoms.  It is important to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and take pain medication as directed by your dentist. 

Helpful Tips

Avoid foods and drinks that may cause upset stomach or gas.  Some of these are coffee, milk, cauliflower, chocolate, fried foods and baked beans.  Too much sugar can distend the stomach because water is drawn into the stomach to dilute the sugar.  We also advise against carbonated drinks, as the resulting gas could similarly distend the stomach, causing further discomfort.

Because certain drugs can interact with local anesthetic solutions, tell your dentist about all medications, both prescription and over the counter,  you are taking.

The Reason for the Medical Background

Anesthesia and surgery affect the entire body, it is important for the anesthesia care provider to be able to anticipate the affects of all anesthetics in relation to the drugs and medications that the patient is taking and may have been used in the recent past.  This includes all prescription or non-prescription drugs; over the counter, herbals, or ‘street drugs’.  Even marijuana, alcohol and tobacco use affects the way anesthetic drugs work in the body.  Many patients may have chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, renal failure, heart or lung problems that can make routine dental work challenging in the conventional dental office setting.  These conditions necessitate careful monitoring of vital signs during the procedure.  Additionally, anesthesia may be provided to control pain, anxiety and delirious physiological responses, such as elevated blood pressure and heart rate that accompany them.