What Do You Need to Know About General Dental Anesthesia?

General anesthesia is a state of unconsciousness produced by an anesthesiologist where the patient does not feel anything or remember anything during the procedure. It is used for lengthy processes, and it exerts its effects on the entire body, especially the central nervous and cardiopulmonary systems. The anesthesiologist must continually monitor the patient and ensure that the patient remains safe until he/she emerges from anesthesia. Anesthesia allows the patients to relax and experience less pain before and after the procedure is complete. 

What is Dental Anesthesia?

A dentist may administer dental anesthesia to help alleviate pain before dental surgery. This medication creates a numbing sensation during invasive oral procedures. It remains active for a few hours, even after the treatment. It can be started in several ways, such as breathing through a mask, injection, or IV. Once the patient falls asleep, an IV (if not set before) is placed, and an endotracheal tube is inserted. This allows the patient to breathe and protects the airway during dental surgery. 

Why is General Dental Anesthesia used?

The reasons for using general anesthesia during dental procedures include:

  • Phobic patients
  • Young patients who suffer from anxiety for dental treatments
  • Extensive treatments to be performed
  • Failure to accomplish treatment with laughing gas and sedation
  • Patients with special healthcare needs

Moreover, the dentist or surgeon will likely recommend anesthesia if the procedure is going to:

  • Take a very long time
  • Result in blood loss
  • Affect the patient’s breathing

Dentists should make their patients aware of the individual options when planning for the procedure. They should be able to answer any questions that the patient may have about the treatment.

What are the side effects of dental anesthesia?

The side effects depend on the type of anesthetic used during dental procedures. Reported short-term side effects include:

  • Headaches and dizziness: You may feel dizzy as you stand up. Drink water to avoid it.
  • Bladder problems. You may have difficulty passing urine for a while after general anesthesia.
  • Itching: Narcotic (opioid) medications used during or after your operation can make you feel itchy.
  • Dry mouth or sore throat: You may feel thirsty after waking up because the tube placed in your throat enables you to breathe during surgery, resulting in a sore throat after it is removed. You can drink water if you are not feeling nauseous. 
  • Drowsiness or confusion: When you wake up from anesthesia, you may feel confused, tired, and hazy for a few hours. 
  • Nausea or vomiting: This is a common side effect that occurs after the procedure and can sometimes last for a day or two.
  • Slurred speech and muscle ache: The drugs used to relax your muscles during surgery can cause muscle aches and slurred speech afterward.
  • Chills or shivering: Your body temperature can drop while using general anesthesia. However, your doctors would ensure that this is minimal. 
  • Postoperative delirium: Some people report becoming confused, disoriented, or having trouble recalling things after surgery. The symptoms generally do not last more than 7 days.
  • Postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD): Some patients may experience certain kinds of cognitive impairment after the procedure. This occurs more in patients who have suffered from a stroke, heart disease, lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease.


Patients should always ask their dental care team about their specific medication and any concerns they may have about it.

What are the precautions to be taken when taking Dental Anesthetics?

The patient should always ask questions about the risks and discuss the safety precautions needed to ensure a positive outcome, especially if you have any of the following medical conditions.


If the patient is pregnant, she should discuss the various risks and benefits of anesthetics for her and her baby with her dentist or surgeon.

Special Needs

People with special needs may have other medical conditions that increase the risk of complications due to the usage of anesthetics. Therefore, they require proper evaluation to determine the type and dose of anesthetics they will need to avoid any negative reactions. 

Old Adults 

Old adults with specific health problems may need careful monitoring during and after surgery to ensure that nothing goes wrong. 

Liver, Kidney, Lung, or Heart Problems

Since anesthetic medications need a little more time to leave the body and have a more powerful effect, patients with significant health issues like liver, kidney, lung, or heart problems might need dose adjustments.

Other Conditions

The patients should let their dental team know if they suffer from hernia, acid reflux, infections or sores in the mouth, severe nausea, or are taking any specific medications (e.g., opioids) that can make them tired.

Health risks are also higher for patients with:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressures
  • Seizure disorder
  • Sleep apnea
  • Children with behavior disorders
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Drug allergies

What are the risks of dental anesthesia?

Not all people experience adverse reactions to general dental anesthesia. Nonetheless, there are higher risks for old adults and people with other health complications. Hence, the dentist or surgeon must be adequately informed about their patients’ medical history to adjust their anesthetic dose accordingly. 

The risks of anesthesia include:

  • Various allergic reactions like itching, swelling of the tongue, lips, mouth, or throat, and difficulty in breathing.
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Heart Failure
  • Stroke
  • Low blood pressure
  • Malignant hyperthermia

Patients should discuss their health information, including prior anesthesia experience, health conditions, medication use, and recreational drug use, with their dentists to enable them to safely manage the patients’ care and treat their side-effects, if any. Please follow all pre-surgery instructions to minimize the side effects of general dental anesthesia.

At Plaza Dental Group, we are happy to offer you the best dental clinic West Des Moines.  Our services include general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, dental anxiety treatment, etc. Our services are supported by the most advanced technology available in the dental care industry. For more information, please visit our website.

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