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Dental treatment under general anaesthetic

Before arriving


Can my child eat or drink before the procedure?

It is important that your child does not have anything to eat or drink for 6 hours before the operation except for sips of plain water. Let your child have regular sips of plain water right up until their operating time.

If you have a morning operation, give your child a meal with lots of carbohydrates such as pasta, potatoes or rice the night before, so it will keep them feeling full for as long as possible. They are allowed a sugar-free snack half an hour before they brush their teeth ready. We recommend a large glass of milk and toast with butter.

If you have an afternoon operation (after 12pm) we encourage you to get up early in the morning and let you child have something before 7.00 am. We recommend non-sugary cereals (such as Weetabix) or toast with butter.

Where do we go?

If you are attending for dental treatment, your child will either be attending Theatre Admissions Unit (TAU) or Surgical Assessment Theatre Unit (SATU). It will be on your appointment letter but if you are unsure do not worry you can check at reception at the main entrance.

What time should we get there?

Please allow time for travel and parking. The nearest car park is Q Park on Durham Rd, S10 2JA. The time stated on your letter is an admission time. This is not the time your child will go to theatre.

How long can I be expected to stay?

This depends on the time your child goes to theatre and the length of procedure. An average stay is around 4 hours.

What should we bring?

Bring your appointment letter and any medications. Your child should take any medications as normal on the day of your admission unless you have been given other specific instructions. We recommend wearing comfortable clothing, many bring pyjamas. Also bring a spare change of clothes with you.

We have activities and toys on our wards and waiting areas, though your child is welcome to bring their own too. Many bring their favourite toy or teddy.

How can I help my child to prepare for their procedure and the anaesthetic?

It is important that children know a little about what to expect when they come for their procedure. Please visit our other resources about General anaesthesia for children and Before having a general anaesthetic.

We also recommend the Little Journey app. It has photos and videos to explain what will happen.

QR code allowing people to view the Little Journey app

Who should bring my child to the appointment?

It is essential that a parent or guardian accompanies your child to sign the consent form. Please note only 2 adults can accompany your child. Under 16s, including siblings, cannot attend.

What should we do if we cannot attend?

It is important to let us know if your child cannot attend their appointment so we can offer it to someone else. Please call us as soon as possible on the 0114 271 7767.

What if my child is unwell?

Please call for advice on 0114 271 7343.

What happens on the day?


When you get to ward you will be met by a member of the team. They will put a wristband on your child and apply numbing cream.

You will be seen by the team looking after your child. This will include a member of the nursing team, the dentist, and an anaesthetist. The dentist will explain the procedure and confirm consent.

The anaesthetist will discuss your child’s anaesthetic with you. More information and risks about general anaesthesia can be found on our General anaesthesia for children resource.


Waiting for the procedure

You and your child will be able to wait in the waiting area until your child goes to theatre. It is important that you do not leave the unit once admitted. Where possible the team will give you an approximate time. However, times can change if an earlier case takes longer than expected.

The operation

Can I go with my child to the operating theatre?

1 parent or carer can accompany your child into the anaesthetic room and stay with them until they are asleep. Please encourage your child to take their shoes off before settling on the trolley.

What happens after the operation?

Your child will wake up in our recovery area. Once they are starting to open their eyes the nurses will call you and you can come into the recovery area to be with your child when they are waking up. Some children wake up very quickly, whereas others take much longer.

After the operation they will have a tube called a cannula in their hand, this lets the nurses and doctors give medicine if needed. They will remove it as soon as they can. After the operation you will need to wait for around an hour before you can go home. Some children go home sooner once the nurses are happy.

Why are the gums numb?

To stop the gums from hurting when your child wakes up the dentist will have put some local anaesthesia (numbing liquid) in their gum when they are asleep. This numb feeling can make your child upset but it helps stop the gums being sore immediately after the operation. The numbing will last for a couple of hours. You will need to check your child is not biting or pulling their lip while they are numb.

Going Home

When your child is ready to be discharged to go home, final checks will be made by the nurses. Please make sure you have some pain relief at home before your child is discharged, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, as we do not routinely provide this. The nurses will tell you when your child needs their next dose of pain medication. You will need to make your own transport arrangements for getting home. We recommend going home by car or taxi.

At home

Will it hurt afterwards?

After extractions, the gums are often sore, and it can feel strange to eat for a couple of days. Give your child some pain medication (paracetamol) and follow the instructions on the bottle or packet.

It is much better to give the medicines regularly to maintain a steady level of pain relief, rather than waiting for your child to become uncomfortable and then giving medicines to treat pain.

What can my child eat?

It is important that your child gets plenty of drinks (water and milk) and nutritional food. Stick to a soft diet rich in nutrients. We recommend you plan ahead and buy soft foods before the operation, so you are well prepared. Here are some ideas:

  • Porridge or non-sugary cereals (such as Weetabix) softened with milk
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Soups with bread to dip in
  • Pasta
  • Rice with mild curry
  • Mashed potato with mince
  • Soft, cooked vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and peas
  • Yoghurts

Will it bleed?

It is normal for some redness in the spit (saliva) for a couple of days. In most cases bleeding stops after a few minutes, especially if your child is drinking fluids and swallowing their own saliva.

If the bleeding does not stop, roll a clean dry cloth, or cotton handkerchief into a ‘sausage shape’ and place it over the bleeding socket. Ask your child to bite on it for 20 minutes. If your child cannot bite, you may need to hold it. You may have to do this a few times.

When can we start tooth brushing?

Begin cleaning teeth gently the day after the operation but avoid the holes. You can return to normal brushing within 48 hours.

When can my child go back to school?

We recommend staying at home the following day. Some children are happy to go back to school after that, but some may need a couple more days.

When should I seek medical advice?

  • If excessive bleeding occurs that does not stop with pressure
  • If your child has severe pain and pain relief is not working
  • If your child is being frequently sick and even water is causing sickness
  • If their breathing is noisy or different to normal

For advice you can contact the Post-Anaesthetic Care Unit (PACU) on 0114 271 7214 or 0114 271 7252. We are open from 8am till 10pm Monday to Friday and 9.30am till 6pm on Saturday or Sunday. If you need advice out of hours you can contact Sheffield Children’s Hospital on 0114 271 7000.

Alternatively, you can contact your dentist or GP, 111 or take your child to the nearest Accident and Emergency Department.

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Contact us


Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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