Lovelace hospital expanding dentistry for special-needs kids

By Rosalie Rayburn

Lovelace Westside Hospital is expanding dentistry services for children with special needs in response to growing demand from local providers.

The hospital at Golf Course and McMahon provides pediatric dentistry services for patients whose needs make it difficult to perform procedures in a typical dental office setting. That could include children who have complicating conditions such as epilepsy or Down syndrome, or those who have many cavities and need to be sedated so the dentist can do all the necessary work at one time, said hospital CEO Farron Sneed.

In 2014, the hospital saw 211 dental patients. By July 1 this year, there were already 214 dental patients, and the hospital expects that trend to continue, according to Nancy Chaffee, division director of Surgical Services.

Lovelace Westside is responding to that growth by hiring two extra nurses. It also has invested $15,000 in dental equipment, and there are plans to spend an additional $50,000 that will cover the cost of one or two more nurses for the pediatric post-operative recovery area, Sneed said.

Sneed said the hospital began offering pediatric dentistry about three years ago and reached out to providers in Albuquerque and the surrounding areas, including several pueblos. Dentists said they needed access to a hospital setting to handle complicated cases or those involving multiple extractions.

“They let us know that it was a big problem,” Sneed said.

Lovelace has been expanding services for young patients in recent years. In early 2012, Lovelace Westside Hospital opened an eight-bed, five-room inpatient pediatric unit, and in 2013, it renovated part of its emergency department to create a special area for pediatric patients.

Sneed said there are plans to add dentistry services soon at the Lovelace Regional Hospital in Roswell, in southeastern New Mexico.

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