General Anesthesia (Hospital Dentistry)

If your child cannot receive dental care in a traditional dental office, our practice offers gentle and effective dental care to infants, children, and adolescents in the nurturing environment of our local hospital - Boston Children's Hospital - Lexington. As a pediatric dentist in the area to offer this unique service, Dr. Patrick Cooper has the distinctive ability to understand the specific needs of children who need dental care but cannot cooperate for safe dental treatment. Through hospital dentistry, you can eliminate the struggles and trauma that can lead to a lifetime fear of dental treatment for your child.

Is hospital dentistry right for my child?

Pediatric hospital dentistry services are ideal for:

  • Physically, emotionally, or developmentally challenged children who are unable to hold still for dental treatment
  • Children with complex medical conditions that make it unsafe to receive dental care in an office situation (Certain medical complexities would require a referral to Boston Children's Hospital Boston)
  • Children who have allergies to local anesthetics or experience difficulty achieving numbness

For these situations, the use of general anesthesia may be the best option for your family.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia will put your child into a deep sleep. He or she will be unable to feel pain or move around. General anesthesia for dental procedures is provided by an anesthesiologist at Boston Children's Hospital - Lexington. These professionals are trained to deliver medication, monitor your child during the procedure, and handle any complications that may occur.

Discuss the procedure with your child using simple terms that he or she can understand. Let your child rest quietly at home after the procedure. He or she will probably be ready to resume their normal schedule the next day.

Hospital Location

482 Bedford St, Lexington, MA 02420

Hospital Phone # for medical questions: (781) 216-2999

Pre - Operative Care

You will receive a call from the medical team within the week of the date we plan on treating your child under general anesthesia to review your child's medical history. The exact time we plan on seeing your child will be determined the day before the procedure date by the hospital. Your child can not eat after midnight the night before the procedure date, and can only drink clear liquids (ie water or apple juice) up until 2 hours prior to their planned arrival time at the hospital.

If your child eats the morning of the procedure, the procedure will be cancelled and may delay treatment for months until the next available OR date. If your child is sick, please call and let us know as that could also result in postponement of the treatment for optimal results.

If your child has significant anxiety, you can discuss with the medical team a pre-medication that will help them relax and forget the experience (amnesia). This oral medication is given to them about 30 minutes before we plan on putting them under general anesthesia. It is often not necessary due to how amazing the BCH medical team treats our patients. It is normal hospital policy that the parents stay in the pre-operative area when we bring their child back into the operating room. Once your child is brought into the operating room, the medical team will place a mask over their mouth and nose which will allow them to quickly and easily fall into a deep sleep. Usually, the dental procedure is about 2 hours long, but it can vary greatly depending on the extent of treatment needs.

Post - Operative Care

How will your child feel:

  • Your child may be groggy and fussy for the rest of the day
  • It is okay to let your child nap, but keep a close eye at all times
  • The newly placed fillings and silver caps may feel “different” to begin with, but your child will adapt quickly
  • Mild fever is common after general anesthesia for a day or two; if it goes over 101 degree F and isn’t improving from acetaminophen or ibuprofen, call Boston Children’s Hospital or your pediatrician.

For Extractions

  • Most of the bleeding will have stopped by the time your child goes home
  • No spitting/straws for 24 hours
  • Until tomorrow you will see some of the clotted blood in your child's saliva and on his/her tongue.  Unless there is blood flowing out of the socket, do not worry about this.
  • If it does start to bleed again from the socket, have your child bite on gauze or a tea bag for 10 minutes


  • Please do not let them participate in physical activities for the remainder of the day so that their body is allowed to fully recover
  • A responsible adult should be with your child at all times
  • It is okay to return to school or daycare tomorrow if your child seems back to normal


  • Keep your child well hydrated—this will help the anesthesia medicines wear off faster
  • At first, encourage your child to drink small amounts of clear fluids (water, apple juice) at a time
  • Avoid dairy products for a few hours to decrease possible nausea. 
  • Stick with soft, fairly bland foods until tomorrow
  • Start with small amounts of solid foods first.  Increase the amounts as your child can tolerate without becoming nauseous. 
  • Popsicles are usually a good to begin with.
  • If stainless steel crowns or space maintainers were placed, avoid any extremely sticky snacks today 


  • Beginning tomorrow morning, brush the teeth and the gums twice a day
  • Especially around crowns the gums may bleed, but it is very important to keep brushing them (they will stop bleeding within two weeks)
  • Do not brush directly on extraction sockets


  • Pain may be expected for a few days after dental treatment
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) can be given 4-6 hours after the last dose at the hospital as long as your child has no allergy


  • Please resume all physician prescribed medications that are currently being taken

Follow Up

  • You will be contacted to schedule a follow up appointment for around 2 weeks from now