Is Your Dental Practice Prepared for a Medical Emergency?

By Therese Vannier, RDA/OMSA July 10, 2018

Although uncommon, a medical emergency can occur at any time in the dental office. Events such as foreign body aspiration, cardiac arrest, asthma, or an allergic reaction can pose a direct threat to the patient’s life. Train your team to recognize the signs of an emergency. Provide critical care until an ambulance arrives. Once stabilized, your patient can be transported to a hospital setting.

Dental emergency

There are many steps that can be taken to help ensure patient survival, including doctor and staff training, mock drills, an medical emergency plan, a current emergency drug kit, and functioning emergency medical equipment. 

Every dental practice should have an event protocol written down and readily accessible. It should include action plans for common emergencies, such as vasovagal syncope, hypoglycemia, chest pain, asthma attacks and seizures. Here are some tips on how to prepare your practice for an unforeseen medical event.

Get certified

BLS and CPR certifications for health care providers cover breathing and cardiac emergencies including CPR, AED and obstructed airway. Regulations vary by state, but dental professionals must meet BLS or CPR certification requirements in order to maintain their licenses. Check with your state dental board for current continuing education requirements.

Own the right equipment

Serious medical events such as heart attacks, strokes, angina, epileptic seizures and asthma attacks can occur at any time. According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, practices should have access to working life-saving equipment such as an AED, defibrillator, oxygen delivery device and Magill forceps.

Prevent accidents

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Rubber dams and Isolation devices such as the Isolite protect the patient’s airway and reduce the risk of foreign body ingestion or aspiration during treatment. Unlike the rubber dam, the Isolite mouthpiece is easy to use and is translucent so the patient’s airway can be easily monitored by the clinician.

Know your drugs

All dentists must keep a fresh supply of critical resuscitation drugs in the office for immediate administration in the event of a medical emergency. Emergency drugs are generally powerful, fast-acting compounds. The correct approach to using drugs in any medical emergency should be supportive and conservative.

The best way to prepare for an adverse event is to maintain supplies and equipment, and train your staff to mobilize.