Hospital Dentistry

Decorative photo of small child

We believe that children should be active participants in their dental care, which means being awake and aware during most dental procedures. That said, there are times when hospital dentistry is necessary. 

Hospital dentistry refers to a dental procedure performed under general anesthesia in conjunction with an anesthesiologist. Dr. Shenkin provides hospital dentistry services at Maine General Medical Center in Augusta. This complies with American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry guidelines on the use of general anesthesia in dentistry, allowing us access to the equipment needed to ensure your child’s safety during their dental procedure.

We primarily use general anesthesia for two reasons: first, for patients with special needs and second, for patients who require extensive dental work who cannot tolerate it in a traditional dental setting. Many children with developmental disabilities do fine with a combination of local anesthesia and nitrous oxide sedation, but there is a small number of patients who cannot tolerate dental procedures; for their safety and the safety of our staff, general anesthesia is necessary.

When a patient needs a significant amount of dental work or oral surgery, general anesthesia allows us to complete the work in a single appointment while the child sleeps through the procedure. We do not take the decision to use general anesthesia lightly.

If you feel your child may benefit from hospital dentistry under general anesthesia, we’ll discuss the risks, benefits, and alternatives with you. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Hospital Dentistry

Is general anesthesia safe for dental work?

The use of general anesthesia for dental work can be concerning to a parent at first, but when dentists adhere to American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry guidelines and only use general anesthesia in a hospital setting with a trained anesthesiologist, it is very safe. Of course, any time general anesthesia is used there are risks involved, which are important to consider. Dr. Shenkin will go over these risks with you and help you decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

How long does pediatric dental surgery take?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the length of dental surgery depends on the procedures being performed.   But the procedure is conducted in same-day surgery at the hospital, so you will arrive and leave the same day.

What age is safe for anesthesia?

Infants undergo necessary medical procedures under general anesthesia all the time; general anesthesia is safe for all ages, but we do not recommend it for children under the age of 3 years unless absolutely necessary. We will try to delay the use of general anesthesia for dentistry in children this young by applying preventive dental procedures if possible.

Is general anesthesia used for tooth extraction?

When a primary (baby) tooth needs to be extracted, the procedure is very simple and quick since these teeth do not have the long roots that secondary (adult) teeth do. We do not recommend general anesthesia for primary tooth extractions alone unless a patient has special needs and we determine that nitrous oxide sedation is insufficient. When a secondary tooth needs to be extracted, we may consider using general anesthesia.  However, we provide comprehensive dental care in the operating room, so if a tooth extraction is indicated, it will be done.