Oral Health Topics
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Medical Emergency Action Plan for the Dental Office
Recognizing, Responding and Managing
A medical emergency in the dental office may be an unexpected event that can include accidental or willful bodily injury, central nervous system stimulation and depression, respiratory and circulatory disturbances, as well as allergic reactions.
Dentists, through their academic, clinical and continuing education, should be familiar with the prevention, diagnosis, and management of common emergencies. In addition, they should provide appropriate training to their staff so that each person knows what to do and can act promptly. Since these skills are not used every day, regular review is necessary: at least annually but preferably more often. Conducting mock emergencies may help office staff to be more confident with their roles when a real emergency occurs. As a result, dentists and their staff should be prepared to recognize, respond and effectively manage a medical emergency.
The components of a sound medical emergency plan for the dental office should include:
- Medical emergency prevention
- Development of an action plan
- Recognizing a patient’s distress and management of medical emergencies
- Emergency drugs and equipment
Some states may require that dentists have emergency drugs and equipment. For example, in 2010 Illinois became the first state to enact a law requiring dental offices that administer deep sedation to not only have an automated external defibrillator (AED) available, but also a written medical emergency plan. This new law does not apply to practices that use local anesthetics for routine dental care. However, many states require dentists, whether they administer general anesthesia or deep sedation, to have an AED available. For more information about the safety requirements in your state, consult with your state dental association and/or your state’s board of dental practice.
In the following sections, you will find information on recognizing, responding and effectively managing medical emergencies, as well as preventive preparation. New information and resources will be added to this area as they become available.
The Journal of the American Dental Association
- Knowing Your Patients (May 2010)
- Preparing Dental Office Staff Members for Emergencies: Developing a Basic Action Plan (May 2010)
- Preparing for Medical Emergencies: The Essential Drugs and Equipment for the Dental Office (May 2010)
- Basic Management of Medical Emergencies: Recognizing a Patient’s Distress (May 2010)
- Guidelines for the Use of Sedation and General Anesthesia by Dentists (2007)
- Policy Statement: The Use of Sedation and General Anesthesia by Dentists (2007)
ADA CE Online
- Recognition and Management of Complications during Minimal and Moderate Sedation - Part One of a Two Part Program. In this course particular emphasis is placed on patient monitoring and airway management. (Basic life support at the health care level is recommended)
- Dental Office Emergencies
This course discusses how the dental office team can prepare itself to handle medical emergencies.
Boards of Dental Examiners
- Council of Interstate Testing Agencies (CITA)
- North East Regional Examining Board (NERB)
- Central Regional Dental Testing Services (CRDTS)
- Southern Regional Testing Agency (SRTA)
- Western Regional Examining Board (WREB)
- Virgin Islands (e-mail)
- American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (2005)
- Management of Medical Emergencies in the Dental Office: Conditions in Each Country, the Extent of Treatment by the Dentist (2006)
- Institute of Medical Emergency Preparedness
- Institute of Medical Emergency Preparedness: The Six Links of SurvivalTM Reference Guide
- Code Red
- HealthFirst Corp.
- DDS Training & Sedation Support Services
- Sedation Resource
- Emergency Drug Resource