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Supporting Your Practice

Making Dentistry Even Safer- Managing Emergencies in the Dental Office


Dental emergencies are certainly the least favourite events in a dental office; however, they do happen, and oral health care professionals must be capable of recognizing and managing them.

What does preparedness mean for an emergency in a dental office? Is it simply stacking your emergency drug kit or taking a more comprehensive approach and instigate a culture that values the importance of patient safety?

I have invited Dr. Mark Donaldson, pharmacology expert and CDA's 2019 Friend of Dentistry. We spoke about dental emergency preparedness that he and Dr. Jason Goodchild published in the California Dental Association Journal in July 2019.


At its core, the management of medical emergencies in the dental office involves early activation of emergency medical services (EMS/911). It is also important to recognize that dialing 911 alone is not adequate emergency treatment.

Although medical emergency preparedness involves factors such as equipment, drugs, training and teamwork, the most important aspect involves a culture of safety within the dental office.

It is vital that the entire team be vigilant in recognizing signs of patient distress and trained to take appropriate action when needed.

All members of the dental team must remember two essential tenets for managing emergent situations in the dental setting: Emergency medical services should be contacted as soon as possible and the basic algorithm of PABCD*, which outlines the process of supporting patients’ vital functions, should be followed until help arrives.

Only after activating EMS and focusing on airway, breathing and circulation should the use of emergency drugs be considered based
on a differential diagnosis. If needed, having the correct emergency drugs and knowing how and when to deliver them can further increase positive outcomes while continuing to make dentistry even safer.

* P = positioning, A = airway, B = breathing, C = circulation and D = considering definitive treatment, differential diagnosis, drugs or defibrillation

I hope you you find the  presentation informative. We always look forward to hearing your thoughts and receiving your questions and/or suggestions about this post and other topics. Leave a comment in the box below or send us your feedback by email.

Until next time!
Chiraz Guessaier, CDA Oasis Manager

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