What is general anaesthesia? | Dental Treatment Guide

General anaesthesia makes you unconscious. You will not be able to respond to stimuli like sounds or touch. You will not be able to control your airways so a tube is placed in your windpipe to assist in your breathing.

General anaesthesia is administered in the hospital and it can be given by a dentist, doctor, or nurse as long as they are trained. Several types of drugs are used for general anaesthesia. Some of them can be inhaled while others are injected. There are times where more than one drug is used. Before you get general anaesthesia, your dentist or your surgeon will check

  • your medical records
  • any medications you are taking
  • any of your allergies
  • if you have used tobacco before
  • if you have received anaesthesia before

Your dentist may have to talk to your doctor before you are given anaesthesia because there are some diseases and conditions that make general anaesthesia riskier. You should tell your dentist about any of the drugs or pills that you take. These would include

  • prescription medication from your doctors
  • vitamins
  • supplements
  • over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol
  • alcohol
  • street drugs

General anaesthesia could cause serious problems if it is administered on people who have been using other drugs especially street drugs. Before your surgery, you will be asked to stop eating and drinking for several hours prior to the operation. Your stomach should be empty prior to the procedure. If your stomach is not empty then food may enter your lungs and cause serious complications. If you eat or drink before the procedure then your surgery may have to be cancelled. If you are going to be in the hospital for the night then you should bring your medications, glucose monitors, and inhalers with you.

Prior to surgery, there will be a tube inserted in one of your veins. The sedatives and the other medications will be given through this intravenous line. During the surgery until the time you get home, doctors will monitor your blood oxygen levels, your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and temperature. You will be given pain medications after the surgery. Before you go home, your dentist or your oral surgeon will give you instructions that you must follow carefully.

You should not drive or use any dangerous machinery for twenty four hours after receiving general anaesthesia. You will be drowsy, uncoordinated, and unable to think clearly after the procedure so make sure that there is someone who can drive you home.

For twenty four hours after the surgery, your doctor could tell you to abstain from

  • alcohol
  • tranquilizers
  • over-the-counter cold medication
  • allergy medications
  • muscle relaxants

These drugs may intermingle with the drugs administered for general anaesthesia and may cause adverse reactions.

What are some of the side effects of general anaesthesia?

People may feel nauseated or they may vomit after they have general anaesthesia. Some other side effects are

  • drowsiness
  • weakness
  • shivering
  • sore throat if a breathing tube is used
  • muscle aches
  • headache
  • vision problems
  • dizziness

Most of these side effects should wear off in a day. Some of the minor side effects may last for a few days. You should contact your doctor or your dentist if these side effects continue to interfere with your day-to-day activities.

The possibility of serious problems with general anaesthesia is rare. In fact, there are more risks driving to your dental appointment than getting general anaesthesia. Even if the risks are uncommon, you should still keep them in mind because they can happen. Under controlled conditions with trained specialists, your risks for serious injuries, heart attacks, strokes, or brain damage is very low. Only two deaths happen for every one million times general anaesthesia is administered. The risks of complications will depend on many factors like

  • age
  • sex
  • weight
  • allergies
  • current medical conditions
  • the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs

Some of the drugs that are used for general anaesthesia may cause malignant hyperthermia, a disease that runs in some families. Some of the symptoms are high fever and rigid muscles. If someone in your family has this kind of condition then you should tell your dentist or your anaesthesiologist about the medications that are safe for you.