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What Does a Dental Anesthesiologist Do?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

The role of anesthesia in surgery has come a long way, and it is a safe and effective means to experience pain-free treatment. A dental anesthesiologist is a specialist who is an expert at administering and monitoring anesthesia during a dental procedure.

Dental Anesthesiology Education Requirements

Dental anesthesiologists are, first and foremost, dentists. In order to become certified, dentists must complete four years of undergraduate education in a related field and four years of training in dental school, a process involving both extensive practicums and rigorous examinations.

The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) notes that these specialists are trained and certified dentists who receive additional education and certification in anesthesiology. There are currently nine accredited programs across the U.S. that offer advanced training in anesthesiology for dentists. To become certified, dentists must complete a 36-month program. The training focuses on oral care, but similar to medical anesthesiology, it also includes pharmacology, emergency medicine, internal medicine and both adult and pediatric anesthesiology.

In fact, this specialty is a recent addition to the nine, now 10, American Dental Association recognized dental specialties, based on the merits of advancement in sedation and the treatments that involve anesthesia.

Where Dental Anesthesiologists Practice

The ADEA explains that these dentists may practice in a variety of settings, such as hospitals and surgery centers. They may also teach in educational settings to impart their training in pain and anxiety management to students or work in a dental office supporting a general dentist.

Receiving Anesthesia for Dental Procedures

Any dental procedure that involves general anesthesia may include a dental anesthesiologist's expertise. But this area of dentistry also places a large focus on helping patients for whom local anesthesia is not an effective treatment. For example, if a child is particularly fearful of having a dental exam or if a patient has an anxiety disorder, general anesthesia may be the right option.

On the whole, uncooperative children, elderly patients, those with anxiety disorders or those with certain physical or cognitive disabilities may benefit from a dental anesthesiologist, as the American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists explains. Speak with your dentist about any dental anxieties that you, your child or your loved one may have before any treatment.

Dental anesthesiologists have an esteemed track record in assessing and meeting the safety and dental needs of patients who undergo general anesthesia. For any treatment, such as a root canal or a simple procedure that normally requires local anesthesia (such as a filling), talk to your dentist about your sedation options. If you're unsure whether you, your child or someone in your care may require advanced sedation, ask about including a dental anesthesiologist in the treatment plan.

Overall, anesthesia is very safe, as the Cleveland Clinic notes. If you're getting your child accustomed to the dentist or supporting a family member with anxiety or dental phobia, remember to speak with them about the appointment beforehand, and educate them on the process with books or helpful sites. With the right care plan in place, you can ensure that you or your loved one can get the right dental care and maintain a happy, healthy smile.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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