Preventing Medical Emergencies in the Dental Office: An Expert's Guide

Preventing medical emergencies in the dental office is essential for the safety of both patients and staff. Taking a complete medical history, ensuring oxygenated blood is supplied to critical organs, and having an emergency plan in place are all key steps to preventing medical emergencies. Additionally, understanding the potential side effects of medications and having an automated external defibrillator (AED) on hand can help to reduce the risk of a medical emergency occurring. At the heart of emergency prevention is taking a comprehensive medical history from each patient. This allows the dentist to make any necessary adjustments to their treatment plan.

It is also important to guarantee that oxygenated blood is supplied to the brain and heart in the event of a medical emergency. This can be accomplished by being competent in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). If necessary, emergency medications can be used after addressing these basic aspects. Having an emergency plan in place is also essential for preventing medical emergencies. All members of the office should be aware of this plan and it should serve as a reminder of the importance of safety in the dental office.

As more patients with complex medical conditions are being treated, it is important to be aware of any potential interactions or side effects of medications. For example, if opioids are used as part of a sedation regimen, naloxen must also be present for the emergency treatment of an involuntary overdose. Epinephrine is the drug of choice for treating anaphylaxis and asthma that does not respond to its first-choice drug, albuterol or salbutamol. Glucagon is indicated if an IV has not been placed and a venipuncture is not expected to be performed, as is often the case in a dental office. Additionally, it is important to take time to truly listen to and address patient concerns. The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) recommends that all dental offices be equipped with an AED.

This device can help to reduce the risk of a medical emergency occurring due to increased anxiety or administration of agents such as local anesthesia. Finally, it is important to remember that even if a member of the dental team did not cause the onset of a medical emergency, they may still be liable for negligence. Therefore, it is essential that all steps are taken to prevent medical emergencies in the dental office.