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Medical emergencies in the Austin dental practice


The dental practice is susceptible to medical emergencies. Dental professionals have been provided with posters titled ‘Medical Emergencies in the Dental Practice’ and ‘Emergency Drugs in the Dental Practice’ to assist them in responding to medical emergencies. Based on current national guidelines and recommendations, they have been updated and completely revised. This issue of the British Dental Journal includes a poster on ‘Medical Emergencies in the Austin dental practice‘.

Points to remember

  • These posters are intended as an aide-memoire for managing medical emergencies in a dental practice.
  • Current guidelines have been incorporated into management and treatment.
  • There is a new section on red flag sepsis as well as an emphasis on ABCDE for assessing and treating acutely ill patients.


A member of the dental team has a duty of care to ensure that they are providing a safe and effective service to their patients. Clinical governance, risk management, and clinical audit play a major role in providing satisfactory performance in the dental practice in the event of a medical emergency.

An aide-memoire designed to help dental team members manage medical emergencies safely and effectively, ‘Medical Emergencies in the Dental Practice’ has been revised and updated.

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the revised and updated poster designed to help dental practices deal with medical emergencies.

Medical emergencies and the General Dental Council

A patient may collapse at any time, whether or not treatment has been provided to them. This is stated by the General Dental Council (GDC). Registrants must therefore possess up-to-date evidence of ability to deal with medical emergencies, including resuscitation, and be trained in dealing with medical emergencies.

In the case of medical emergencies that occur within the course of treatment, it is best to have two people on-site (a receptionist or a colleague accompanying the patient in exceptional circumstances could serve as the second person).

Continuing professional development (CPD) is an important aspect of all dental professionals’ careers, and this includes maintaining their knowledge and competence during medical emergencies.

Incidence of medical emergencies

A general dental practitioner (GDP) is estimated to have had at least one medical emergency every two years, including vasovagal syncope, hypoglycaemia, epileptic seizures, choking, asthma, anaphylaxis, and cardiac arrest3.

Interestingly, one study shows that 4.8% of all GDPs observed 22% of all vasovagal syncopes and that the prevalence of vasovagal syncope decreases with professional experience.3,4,5

Risk management

An important part of risk management in the dental practice is preventing medical emergencies. The medical risk assessment of every primary care dental facility should therefore be in place.

By taking a complete medical history every time the patient is presented for treatment, you can anticipate potential medical emergencies before they occur. According to some research, it may be helpful to have a current medical history to reduce the likelihood of a medical emergency.

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