Handling Dental Office Emergencies: A Guide for Students in Dental Assisting Training

become a dental assistant

If youa��re considering becoming a dental assistant, you might imagine yourself helping patients get settled into a dentista��s office, cleaning and sterilizing instruments, applying pit and fissure sealants, polishing patienta��s teeth, and maintaining friendly relationships with each patienta��among many other duties. These are some of the main responsibilities that come with a career in dental assisting, and what you can expect to encounter on a daily basis. But as a dental assistant, you might sometimes also be called on to help during a dental emergency during your future career.

To prepare you for the trickier tasks involved in this profession, herea��s a quick guide to handling office emergencies as a dental assistant:

Using Your Dental Assistant Training to Develop an Office Emergency Plan

According to dental safety professionals Sue Protzman, Jeff Clark, and Wilhemina Leeuw, a�?it is impossible to know when an emergency may occur or what form it may take, so it is important that every dental office have an established, written, and practiced routine for handling emergencies.a�?

For many offices, the first step in developing this plan is deciding on a code word. Students in dental assisting training learn that great care is taken to put patients at ease, and using a code word throughout the office can help you avoid causing patients unnecessary stress.

Your future office should also have specific roles outlined for every employee to follow in case of medical emergencies. For example, you may find yourself being the 911 caller or CPR administrator.

With everyonea��s roles in place, the modern dental office is able to respond quickly and efficiently to any emergency it may encounter.

Identifying Respiratory and Cardiac Emergencies in the Dental Office

In your dental assistant program, youa��ll learn that dental work can influence two major body systems: the respiratory system, and the circulatory system.

The most common dental emergency involves a patient experiencing airway obstruction, often in combination with an asthma attack or bronchospasm. Signs of an airway obstruction include:

  • Wheezing
  • Choking
  • A bluish discolouration of the skin (a�?cyanosisa��)

Circulatory/cardiac issues are less common, but among the most serious problems a patient can experience in the dental office. These may arise when anaesthesia is involved in a dental procedure. Some signs of a cardiac emergency include:

  • Unresponsiveness
  • Apnea
  • Pulselessness

Remember: when you become a dental assistant, any of these signs should kick your officea��s emergency plan into action.

Ensuring Emergency Information/Equipment is at Hand Once You Become a Dental Assistant

As a dental assistant, youa��ll often be the first professional a patient talks to when they take a seat in a dentista��s chair. It will be up to you not only to make them comfortable, but also to ask them about updates to their medical records and information about their general health.

You and your peers in the dental office will have access to each patienta��s medical recordsa��which can prove to be a critical step in handling emergencies. For example, a patient experiencing an allergic reaction often has important allergy information in their medical file.

Along with keeping patient medical files easily accessible, the most effective dental offices keep emergency equipment within reach of their dentists and dental assistants. This can be as common as a first aid kit and fire extinguisher or as specialized as an emergency oxygen delivery tank.

In every emergency, time is of the essence. With the right training and an understanding of the tips mentioned above, youa��ll be able to swiftly take action on any emergency you encounter throughout your dental assisting career.

Are you ready to become a dental assistant?

Visit CADH for information about getting your career started.

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