You are about to have surgery and are reading over the pre-procedural information and checklists you were given. What? You can't eat or drink anything for 6 hours?! Your health care professional is not playing some sick joke on you to see how irritable they can make you when you are food deprived and dehydrated. There are several reasons as to why we ask you be NPO ('nil per os' - translates to 'nothing by mouth') for a period of time before any surgical procedure involving sedation. If you understand why we are being so cruel the fasting process may be a little bit easier.
With any surgery that involves any form of sedation the risk of vomiting increases. If there is emesis (technical term for vomiting) into the oral cavity and throat your chance of choking increases. This is not meant to scare you. With any sedation you will be monitored and specifically your airway and ability to maintain it on your own is being closely observed. The practitioner needs to make sure you don't transfer into a deeper level of sedation where you can't maintain your own airway. Additionally, if emesis were to occur there is that increased choking risk and increase risk of occluding the airway. Although routine, the nature of our surgery in dentistry has a far reduced complication rate for a patient is what is NPO for atleast 6 hours. Sometimes clear liquids are okay but the risks aren't worth it so wake up atleast 6 hours before your surgery if you need to have one last sip of fluids and a small meal, go back to bed if you need. The extra nourishment from the food will help the healing process. Trust us and get well soon!