The ADA (American Dental Association) defines a dental emergency as “potentially life threatening and require immediate treatment to stop ongoing tissue bleeding [or to] alleviate severe pain or infection.” Depending on what area of the country you practice, dental emergencies can be seen frequently. And, if the pain is severe enough, and dental offices are closed, the patient may seek emergency dental care at a hospital emergency room.
What Qualifies as a Dental Emergency?
Dental emergencies can involve anything from dry socket, adjustments of an orthodontic wire piercing soft tissue, denture adjustments, to pain and swelling. Anything that has deterred eating or sleeping is to be considered an emergency.
In a hospital emergency room, physicians are not trained to deal with dental emergencies. If you’ve worked in an area where dental emergencies are seen daily, you will undoubtedly see patients who have been to an emergency room for treatment, but days later are still in pain.
Who Works in Emergency Dental Situations?
Caring for dental emergencies, especially for patients of record, is a professional responsibility. Dental emergencies who call your office who are not patients of record, provide an opportunity to acquire a new patient; a new patient who may come with a family, friends, and relatives. Don’t miss out on this lucky day to acquire new patients!!
Failure to care for these individuals (especially patients of record) can carry severe consequences from malpractice to an action against a dental professionals’ license. If you don’t have a protocol in place (and a written one that’s quarterly reviewed at office meetings) now would be a good time to consider developing one.
One of the most critical parts of the emergency response is the triage process that is conducted by the front office staff. The patient assessment is crucial to determining what course of action is most suited to the situation. There are a series of questions that should be asked to determine the immediate need of care.
These questions include, intensity of the pain, if there is any facial or neck swelling, recent extractions, a recent history of trauma with bleeding or fracture. The information taken from this interview can help the clinical staff prepare for the patient when he or she arrives.
The clinical team is well-equipped to identify and work with dental emergencies. Unless the non-clinical members of the team are former clinical dental professionals, they may not be trained to understand how to handle dental emergencies . To ensure an efficient and seamlessly working dental practice, the entire team should be trained to have a comprehensive knowledge of the clinical practice and to recognize different emergency situations.
The benefits of continuing education as a team cannot be over-emphasized. It refines skills, develops the team approach to handle patients who are in dire need and works to apply credit towards license renewal. A much-overlooked perk is what it does to develop a team culture that gives the patient confidence in their handling of the emergency.
Looking for an experienced Dental Professional to add to your Team?
Dental Practices can post their job listing at www.dentalstaffing.org and get access to candidates with the experience and skills you need.
Dental Professional Job Seekers can post their profile to be seen by Dental Practices looking for skilled dental professionals to round out their Team!
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