General Anesthesia in Dentistry

Will You Need General Anesthesia for Dental Treatment?

Dental anxiety is a common issue that prevents many individuals from seeking necessary dental care. However, avoiding the dentist typically causes problems that are painful and require invasive procedures. For certain dental treatments, patients may require or want general anesthesia. 

If you need to see a dentist, schedule an appointment with Dr. Dina Nuhfer at our North East, PA, dental office by calling (814) 725-4700.

sedation dentistry

What Is General Anesthesia?

General anesthesia is a type of anesthesia that puts you into a deep sleep during major surgical procedures. This is achieved through the administration of intravenous (IV) medications or inhalation agents. It involves the use of anesthetic drugs that affect your brain and nervous system. An anesthesiologist or certified nurse anesthetist is the only one allowed to administer. This ensures you won’t feel any pain, won’t move, and won’t remember the surgical procedure.

Who Administers General Anesthesia?

In Erie, PA, general anesthesia is typically administered by a team of trained professionals, including:

  • Anesthesiologists (medical doctors specializing in anesthesia care)
  • Certified Nurse Anesthetists (advanced practice registered nurses)
  • Anesthesiologist Assistants

This anesthesia team works closely with your surgeon to ensure your safety and comfort throughout the procedure.

When Is General Anesthesia Used?

General anesthesia is typically reserved for specific situations, such as:

  • Complex Oral Surgery: Procedures like wisdom teeth extraction, jaw surgery, and dental implant placements may require general anesthesia to ensure patient comfort and safety.
  • Severe Dental Anxiety: Patients with severe dental phobia or anxiety may opt for general anesthesia to make their dental experience stress-free.
  • Children and Special Needs Patients: Pediatric dentists and dentists who treat special needs patients sometimes use general anesthesia to ensure cooperation during procedures.
  • Multiple Procedures: When multiple dental procedures need to be performed in a single session, general anesthesia can save time and reduce patient discomfort.

Benefits of General Anesthesia

When general anesthesia is used for dental treatments, patients can experience various benefits:

  • Pain-Free Procedures: Patients experience no pain during the dental procedure, making it ideal for complex or lengthy treatments.
  • Anxiety Reduction: Patients with dental anxiety can undergo treatment without the emotional stress and fear associated with dental visits.
  • Enhanced Safety: Dental professionals can work more efficiently and safely when the patient is completely still and unaware.
  • Time Efficiency: Multiple dental procedures can be completed in a single session, reducing the need for multiple appointments.

Administering General Anesthesia

Patient Evaluation

Before administering dental anesthesia, the team performs a thorough evaluation of the patient’s overall health and medical history, including any existing medical conditions, allergies, medications, and previous reactions to anesthesia. The dentist will discuss the patient’s dental needs, the complexity of the procedure, and the reasons for choosing general anesthesia.

A written consent form is typically signed to confirm the patient’s understanding and agreement to proceed with anesthesia.


On the day of the procedure, the patient will be advised to fast for several hours to prevent complications like aspiration during anesthesia induction. The dental team ensures that monitoring equipment, emergency medications, and airway management tools are readily available.

The Anesthesia Team

A highly trained anesthesia provider, such as a dental anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist, works alongside the dentist to administer and monitor the anesthesia throughout the procedure.

The anesthesia team is responsible for assessing the patient’s vital signs, ensuring a secure airway, and adjusting the anesthesia as needed to maintain the desired level of unconsciousness.

Anesthesia Induction

Before the procedure begins, the patient is typically given a sedative to help them relax and become drowsy. Once the patient is relaxed, the anesthesia provider administers the general anesthetic through an intravenous (IV) line or by inhalation through a mask.

As the patient loses consciousness, their vital signs are continuously monitored, including heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and carbon dioxide levels.

Maintenance and Monitoring

During the dental procedure, the anesthesia provider carefully regulates the depth of anesthesia to ensure the patient remains completely unconscious and pain-free. The patient’s vital signs are closely monitored throughout the procedure to detect any signs of distress or complications. The anesthesia team is prepared to make immediate adjustments if necessary.

Post-Anesthesia Care

After the procedure, the dental team provides post-anesthesia care instructions to the patient or their guardian. Patients may experience some grogginess, nausea, or confusion as they recover from the effects of anesthesia.

Recovery from General Anesthesia

After the surgery, you’ll be closely monitored in the recovery room until the effects of the anesthesia have worn off. You may feel groggy, confused, or experience nausea during this time. Most patients can go home the same day, but you’ll need someone to drive you home and stay with you for the first 24 hours.

It can take several days to a week to fully recover from the effects of general anesthesia. During this time, you may experience fatigue, muscle aches, and difficulty concentrating. It’s essential to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for a safe and smooth recovery.

Treatments Where General Anesthesia Dentistry May Be Used

Oral Surgery

  • Wisdom Teeth Extraction: Removing impacted or problematic wisdom teeth can be a complex and potentially painful procedure, often requiring general anesthesia.
  • Jaw Surgery (Orthognathic Surgery): Correcting severe jaw misalignments or skeletal abnormalities may involve extensive oral surgery, often performed under general anesthesia.
  • Cleft Palate Repair: Surgical repair of a cleft palate or cleft lip in pediatric patients may require general anesthesia.

Dental Implant Placement

Dental implant procedures involving multiple implants or complex cases may be performed under general anesthesia to ensure patient comfort during the surgery.

Pediatric Dentistry

Some children, especially those with special needs or extreme dental anxiety, may undergo general anesthesia for pediatric dental treatments such as extractions, fillings, or crowns to ensure their safety and cooperation.

Multiple Dental Procedures

When a patient requires multiple dental procedures, such as extractions, root canals, and restorative work, performing them in a single session under general anesthesia can be more efficient and comfortable for the patient.

Complex Restorative Dentistry

Full-mouth restorations or extensive cosmetic procedures that involve multiple teeth may be performed under general anesthesia to ensure precision and patient comfort.

Maxillofacial Surgery

Procedures involving the correction of facial deformities, fractures, or reconstructive surgery of the jaw, face, or head may require general anesthesia.

General Anesthesia Risks

While it can be safe and effective, there are risks associated with general anesthesia when used in dental treatments. Potential risks may include:

  • Allergic Reactions
  • Respiratory Problems
  • Cardiovascular Complications
  • Aspiration
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Cognitive Effects
  • Infection
  • Blood Clots

General Anesthesia Costs

When it comes to the cost associated with general anesthesia, rates can vary between $400 to $1,000 an hour. The cost varies depending on the following factors:

  • Location: The cost of general anesthesia can vary significantly from one region or country to another. In areas with a higher cost of living, you can generally expect anesthesia costs to be higher.
  • Procedure Complexity: More complex and invasive procedures, such as oral surgeries like wisdom tooth extraction or dental implant placement, may require longer anesthesia administration and monitoring, leading to higher costs.
  • Anesthesiologist Fees: If a separate anesthesiologist is required to administer and monitor the anesthesia, their fees will add to the overall cost.
  • Duration of Anesthesia: The longer you require general anesthesia, the higher the cost will be. 
  • Dental Practice or Clinic: Different dental practices or clinics may have varying pricing structures for general anesthesia. Some may bundle it into the overall procedure cost, while others may charge separately.
  • Insurance Coverage: Dental insurance may partially or fully cover the cost of general anesthesia for certain procedures, especially if it’s deemed medically necessary. Be sure to check with your insurance provider for details on coverage.
  • Additional Costs: There may be additional costs associated with general anesthesia, such as pre-anesthetic evaluations, post-operative care, and any medications or supplies used during the procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you breathe on your own under general anesthesia?

No, you do not breathe on your own during general anesthesia. A breathing tube is inserted to ensure you receive enough oxygen while you’re unconscious.

How long does it take to recover from general anesthesia after a dental procedure?

Recovery times vary, but most patients regain consciousness within minutes after the procedure. It’s essential to have someone accompany you and arrange for transportation home. You may feel groggy for a couple of hours after your dental procedure with general anesthesia.

Who should not go under general anesthesia?

Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as severe heart or lung disease, may not be suitable candidates for general anesthesia due to the increased risks. Your anesthesia team will carefully evaluate your medical history to determine if general anesthesia is safe for you.

Are there alternatives to general anesthesia for dental anxiety?

Yes, there are other forms of dental sedation other than general anesthesia. Alternatives may include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral conscious sedation, and IV sedation. Talk to your dentist about your dental sedation options. 

Contact Our North East Dental Office Today!

If you have questions or concerns about dental procedures and anesthesia, don’t hesitate to contact our dentist or an oral surgeon. We can provide you with personalized information and guidance tailored to your specific needs.

To schedule an appointment with our North East dentist, contact our dental office today by calling (814) 725-4700. We’ll discuss our sedation dentistry options! We welcome patients from Erie, Ripley, and Findley Lake, PA.