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Survey: Most dental practices are prepared for medical emergencies

August 24, 2018

By David Burger

Photo of Dr. Ratner
Dr. Ratner
Nearly 97 percent of dental practices reported that they had a plan for responding to medical emergencies in the office, according to a survey conducted by the ADA Council on Dental Practice earlier this year.

The survey's results are available online at ADA.org/emergencymedicalsurvey.

"According to the survey, dental practices report that they are largely prepared for medical emergencies that might happen in an office," said Dr. Craig Ratner, Council on Dental Practice chair. "It also revealed that some of the most commonly occurring medical emergencies are situations that can occur almost anywhere."

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • The top three medical emergencies that required medical treatment that have occurred in practice within the previous 12 months were syncope (39.8 percent), epinephrine reaction (37.4 percent) and postural hypotension (33.9 percent).
  • Most practices (86.4 percent) reported training staff on how to respond to medical emergencies that can occur in the practice.
  • The most common types of staff training for managing medical emergencies in the practice were reviewing written materials (60.3 percent) and live training by an outside presenter (58 percent).
  • Two-thirds (66.1 percent) of responding practices reported maintaining a log to document staff training for medical emergencies.
  • Most practices (96.5 percent) had at least one staff person trained in Basic Life Support as offered by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.
  • Basic Life Support-certified staff members include dentists (99.5 percent); dental assistants (84.8 percent); dental hygienists (76.7 percent); and office managers (70.9 percent).
  • Most dental practices (93.4 percent) have an emergency medical kit with drugs to manage routine medical emergencies.
  • Practices with emergency medical kits containing medications report having:
    • Oxygen available for emergencies (95 percent).
    • Epinephrine auto-injectors for adult patients (83.6 percent).
    • An automated external defibrillator (75.7 percent).
    • Epinephrine auto-injectors for pediatric patients (61.8 percent).

    "The Council on Dental Practice conducts surveys, like this one, because they provide valuable information about our members," said Dr. Ratner. "The results also enable the Council to share information with other agencies in the Association to develop resources, information and training opportunities that will help members succeed in all aspects of their practices, including during unforeseen emergencies."

    The CDP Survey on Preparedness for Medical Emergencies in the Dental Practice  was emailed to a random sample of professionally active licensed dentists. Five hundred and twenty-nine individuals completed the survey. More than three-fourths (76.5 percent) of the respondents reported being in general dentistry practices and 52.8 percent of the total respondents were in solo practice.

    The ADA website has a number of resources available that help dentists prepare for medical emergencies at ADA.org/medicalemergencies. 
    ADA Member Advantage has endorsed select HealthFirst Practice readiness solutions, including emergency medical kits. ADA members can receive a discount on selected products by entering "ADAMEMBER" in the discount code field at checkout at www.healthfirst.com/ADA.

    In late fall, the ADA will publish a new manual called Medical Emergencies in the Dental Office: Response Guide that can be preordered now at ADA.org/emergencyresponseguide.