What is a Dentist Anesthesiologist?

Dentist anesthesiologists are first and foremost, dentists. As dentists, they have completed an undergraduate degree and a doctoral degree in dentistry (D.M.D. or D.D.S.).

Anesthesia Training

Dentist anesthesiologists undergo residency training in anesthesia. The American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation accredits these residency programs. Furthermore, these programs affiliate hospital anesthesia programs and require them to adhere to Graduate Medical Education (GME) standards.

Currently, dentists who complete an anesthesia residency complete 3 years of additional post-graduate education in anesthesia. Physician anesthesiologists train dentist anesthesiologists in the hospital.

Dentist anesthesiologists train with medical anesthesia residents, and they often treat the residents interchangeably. This includes participating on the code team and call team.

Dentist anesthesiologists provide anesthesia for medical and dental procedures during this training. This is not to say that physician anesthesiologists and dentist anesthesiologists have equal skills, but that they undergo very similar training.

Anesthesiologists and Anesthetists

An anesthesiologist is a doctor who provides anesthesia to patients. Here in the US, the term anesthetist typically refers to nurse anesthetists or CRNAs. In some states, the Medical Boards also recognize anesthesia assistants, which are similar to physician assistants. Anesthesia assistants, nurse anesthetists, and anesthesiologists (including dentist anesthesiologists) all provide anesthesia to patients.

Anesthesia assistants always work under a physician anesthesiologist; there are no exceptions. The anesthesia assistant is like a doctor’s helper, but they administer the anesthesia. They work alongside the main anesthesiologist.

CRNAs, in some states, may be the primary anesthesia provider and do not need to practice under an anesthesiologist. In other states, anesthesiologists must supervise CRNAs, similar to an anesthesia assistant.

Physician anesthesiologists are medical doctors who have obtained either an M.D. or D.O. and completed an anesthesia residency. Dentist anesthesiologists are dentists who have obtained either a D.M.D. or D.D.S. and completed an anesthesia residency.

Dentist and Physician Anesthesiologists

Dentist anesthesiologists typically provide anesthesia only for dental procedures and oral and maxillofacial surgery. This may be in an appropriately designed dental office, an ambulatory surgical center, or in the hospital.

Dentist anesthesiologists specialize in dental procedures. They also specialize in anesthesia for outpatients and anesthesia outside the operating room. Lastly, they specialize in treating children and patients with special healthcare needs. Dentist anesthesiologists treat more kids during their training than non-pediatric anesthesiologists who don’t specialize in pediatric anesthesia. Physician anesthesiologists are highly skilled in critical care, cardiac anesthesia, obstetric anesthesia, pain management, and neonatal care.

Can any Dentist be an Anesthesiologist?

Dentist anesthesiologists must complete an anesthesia residency. They may also obtain certification through a board examination.

There are currently two board examinations, but only one that board certifies dentist anesthesiologists. The American Dental Board of Anesthesiology requires a written and oral exam after completing an anesthesia residency. The National Dental Board of Anesthesiology is a written examination that is open to dentist anesthesiologists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons.

This means that dentists who take seminars to learn oral and/or IV sedation are not board-eligible. They technically are not dentist anesthesiologists, although these dentists may present themselves as “sleep dentists,” “sedation dentists,” or even anesthesia providers. A board-certified dentist anesthesiologist must complete an anesthesia residency and pass both the written and oral American Dental Board of Anesthesiology examinations.

In short, a dental anesthesiologist is a specialist who is an expert at administering and monitoring anesthesia during a dental procedure, having completed an anesthesia residency and often receiving certification through board examination.