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Can root canal treatment be provided like other medical procedures under general anesthesia? Is it possible to get root canal treatment without ever being aware of what is being done? Yes, it is. There are some things to be aware of though.

One of the major reasons why people delay or even avoid dental treatment completely is the fear of dental treatment. This fear could stem from a poor experience during childhood, fear instilled due to the constant re-reinforcement of stereotypes in mass media, or anything else [1]. The anxiety that they feel while getting the dental treatment done is worse than the severe pain they may face by neglecting their oral health [2].

Root canal treatment is perhaps the most vilified dental procedures of them all. The first thing that people associate with root canal treatment is pain and therefore it is not at all unusual for patients with anxiety to have a very tough time getting root canal treatment done [3]. One of the avenues that are available to such patients is getting root canal treatment under general anesthesia.

Can root canal treatment be done under general anesthesia?

It most certainly can. For patients that suffer from extreme anxiety and are unable to bear the thought of getting dental treatment done, general anesthesia is an option for sure. It must be understood that a lot of such patients do not mind getting an injection but don’t want to be aware of what follows later.

They want to go to sleep and wake up with the treatment completed.

Studies have also shown that patients that receive dental treatment under general anesthesia are later more likely to be able to receive treatment under sedation or just local anesthesia as well [4].

The procedure performed is exactly the same as under local anesthesia, although the time frames may be compressed. The dentist can work without any hindrance inside the mouth [5]. The patient is bed-bound and so taking conventional radiographs can be an issue.

There are portable X-ray units as well as apex locators which can help the dentist get around this hurdle. There was a time when it was believed that root canal treatment performed under general anesthesia cannot be of the same quality as that provided in a traditional dental setting but that was probably down to the dentists being unfamiliar with the working conditions [6].

There is no reason why the outcome of a root canal procedure performed under general anesthesia should be any different to a single sitting root canal treatment provided in the dental clinic routinely.

Advantages of getting root canal treatment done under general anesthesia

The biggest advantage is that the patient does not have to hear drilling noises or worry about water in the mouth, or anything else. Dental treatment can often be achieved at a faster rate and more than one procedure can be carried out while the patient is unconscious [7].

Patients that are old, immobile, special need, or of unstable health can also get dental treatment done with comfort, providing the anesthesiologist finds them fit to receive general anesthesia [8]. People that have been in accidents or sports injuries may not be able to receive emergency dental treatment in the traditional route and general anesthesia is the only option available to them.

The disadvantage of getting root canal treatment done under general anesthesia

There are more disadvantages than advantages to getting root canal treatment done under general anesthesia. One big problem is the lack of time. Root canal treatment was traditionally carried out over multiple appointments so that it could be properly disinfected and the patient was completely pain-free before the canal was filled.

While getting the procedure done under general anesthesia, the dentist has no option but to complete the entire procedure in the matter of a few hours. The chances of post-operative pain are much higher [9].

The chances of complications with root canal treatment are minor if any, however, general anesthesia carries with it the risk of complications on its own. The procedure must ideally be carried out in a hospital setting where the patient can be monitored closely under a trained anesthesiologist.

The cost of treatment also increases manifold of the treatment is to be provided under general anesthesia.

Can root canal treatment be done for children under general anesthesia?

Children, particularly those of a very young age, can have a hard time understanding dental treatment. Making them co-operate can be a difficult and even impossible thing for parents and the dentist concerned.

If all other methods to make the child co-operate have failed then the child may have to be sedated heavily for the treatment to be performed. The risks of general anesthesia can be enhanced when children are being put under and so once again, this procedure must be done in a hospital setting capable of handling any emergencies that may arise [10].

Conclusion

Anxiety can be difficult to understand for someone who does not suffer from it. It can be crippling to the point of being self-harming. If general anesthesia can help someone get over their anxiety of dental treatment then there is absolutely no harm in it being utilized with the proper precautions.

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