A Guide to Medical Emergencies in Dental Practices

A Guide to Medical Emergencies in Dental Practices

A Guide to Medical Emergencies in Dental Practices

Medical Emergencies in Dental Practices can occur at any time, just like anywhere else. To ensure that you are adequately prepared for these situations you and your staff should be adequately trained with enough confidence to provide care when it is needed.

As a specialist first aid and dental medical emergencies training provider, one of the most common questions we get asked is what is the most appropriate first aid for dentists and CPD for dental practices. Over the past 14 years we have provided specialist dental first aid training for dental professionals. These include skills, knowledge and dental first aid workshops all designed and developed with dentists, dental technicians, and dental support staff as the primary focus.

The information and courses in this article ensure that all dental practices adhere to the General Dental Council recommendations. The information links to courses that will help you and your team be compliant while also forming part of your dental CPD.


Let’s get started

Our Guide to Medical Emergencies in Dental Practices includes:

Each section includes a brief outline and will point you in the direction of the most appropriate program to ensure you are prepared for the given situation or skill where required. Let’s get into it.


What are the common medical emergencies in dentistry

What are the common medical emergencies in dentistry?

It is important to realise that there is more than just this brief list of situations that can occur while patients are visiting your surgery. However, these are some of the common problems that occur. Early recognition of these problems can massively reduce the risk to patients and having staff that are confident and skilled to manage the specific emergency appropriately is essential.

Simple Faint (Vasovagal Syncope)

A faint is a brief, sudden loss of consciousness. The medical term for this is vasovagal syncope, so we will just call it a simple faint for the purposes of this. This is caused by decreased blood flow to the brain. There are several causes of this, but within a dental practice, one of the major reasons for a fainting spell is due to either pain, fear, emotional stress, or anxiety. Most dental patients who suffer from a fainting spell have no underlying neurological or heart conditions.

Local Anaesthetic Emergencies

Some people have an allergy to local anaesthetic. Although this is rare, it is something that must be considered. In the unlikely event that this does occur, the situation would be treated in the same way as you would for any other case of anaphylaxis. Put into context of the number of local anaesthetics administered in dental practices, the complication rates are low. Understanding how to identify the signs and symptoms is important. Fainting is more common with the injection of local anaesthetic than the allergic reaction to the anaesthetic itself.


A stroke can occur without warning at any time. This is a risk, not only within a dental surgery, but anywhere. The symptoms include loss of consciousness and weakness of limbs on one side of the body. It is often identified by one side of the face, may become weak and can also droop. A stroke can also affect the patient’s speech as it can become slurred.

Hyperventilation (Panic Attack)

Panic attacks and hyperventilation are a much more common emergency than is often thought. Extended hyperventilation can be very distressing for the patient. Anxiety about their purpose of visiting your dental practice is often a contributing factor rather than any actual dental work that causes this. Hyperventilation leads to carbon dioxide being excessively removed from the lungs. If hyperventilation persists, hand and foot spasms can be seen.


Asthma, although common, is a potentially life-threatening condition and should always be taken seriously. This should be picked up when a patient’s medical history is checked, however, knowing how to deal with a patient having an asthma attack is crucial. It is important that patients with asthmatic patients bring their usual inhaler with them − if the inhaler has not been brought it must be in the emergency kit or treatment should be deferred. Drugs which may be prescribed by dental practitioners, particularly non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may worsen asthma and are therefore best avoided.

Chest Pain (Cardiac Problems)

If a patient suffers from chest pain while visiting your dental practice, the patient is likely to have a previous history of cardiac disease. Your facility will already have good records of patient history on hand; however, these records will not help if a problem occurs while the patient is receiving a dental treatment. If a patient does have medication for a condition, he or she should be carrying this with them and on hand. Knowing the signs and symptoms of this is crucial for your team. Being comfortable with how to react is essential.

Epileptic Seizures

A patient history will reveal a history of epilepsy. Strong record keeping and transfer of information between the admin and dentists is critical. This information regarding the nature of any seizures, their frequency and degree of control should be noted. The signs and symptoms of epilepsy vary considerably.

Diabetic Emergencies
Patients with a history of diabetes will know how to control their blood glucose levels. However, with patients that have recurring hypoglyceamic episodes and markedly varying blood glucose levels the patient has a risk of hypoglycaemia during medical treatment. It is recommended to ensure that patients have had something to eat prior to dental treatment. Knowing how to deal with hypoglycaemia, which is more common than hyperglycaemia (which is a much slower onset) is important for dental practices.

Chocking & Aspiration
Due to the nature of dental treatments, patients are at an increased risk of choking and aspiration. Procedures are in place within the dental community to reduce this risk, however, it is essential that the correct dental first aid procedures are developed by staff to ensure the safety of their patients.


Best Dental CPD Courses

What are the best Dental CPD Courses for our dental practices?

There is a difference between understanding what the best Dental CPD Courses are for our dental practices and what are involved in each program. We have listed the most popular (and critical) dental CPD here. Each program has a short summary below:

  • Medical Emergencies in a Dental Practice Course (Core Subject)
  • Dental Workshop
  • Immediate Life Support (ILS) Course
  • Sedation Awareness
  • CPR & AED Awareness
  • Scenario Workshop Course
  • Safeguarding Children & Vulnerable Adults Course (Core Subject)
  • Mental Health First Aid for Dental Practices
  • Mental Capacity Act Course (Core Subject)
  • Communication Skills Course (Core Subject)
  • Managing Complaints Course (Core Subject)

We realise that this is comprehensive, so we have a short summary of each for you.

The Medical Emergencies in a Dental Practice Course exceeds the General Dental Council (GDC) requirement of dental medical emergencies training. This program is often referred to as the Dental CPR Certification, however, the program covers far more than just the CPR portion of emergency care.

Our Dental Workshop Course is the only course of its kind. This program was developed for dental surgeries. The program targets specific knowledge, skills, and awareness to ensure that your team has the confidence to deal with any medical emergencies in dentistry. The course is heavily weighted towards scenario-based training. These simulated medical emergencies help students retain the information and increase their confidence to care.

The Immediate Life Support (ILS) Course meets the UK Resuscitation Council and forms part of the CPD for dental nurses and dentists towards the General Dental Council’s Dental CPD requirements. The aim of this program is to train dental personnel in CPR, airway management and the use of an AED in a dental emergency. This single day first aid for dentist’s program consists of classroom knowledge development and practical skills sessions.

Our Sedation Awareness Course offers the dental team an awareness of options for the care of a patient who is taken ill during a course of treatment under conscious sedation. We will give you advice on airway management techniques to be deployed in an emergency setting through safe mock scenarios enacted within the dental practice. This course is delivered by highly experienced and qualified frontline medical professionals. This course can be used to refresh your Immediate Life Support (ILS) training.

The CPR and AED Awareness Course allows participants to refresh their CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) skills in scenario-based training. The course has been developed to ensure all staff from your dental surgery can participate at the same time. No technical medical jargon on this program. This program meets the Resuscitation Council (UK) and General Dental Council guidelines and forms part of your Dental CPD credits.

Our Scenario Workshop Course is designed to enable you to deal with different types of medical emergencies that may occur within your dental practice. This is done in the controlled and audited scenarios by our medical professional trainers who will give you encouragement and advice in the correct technique and algorithm for a particular emergency.

Our Safeguarding Children & Vulnerable Adults course is perfect for designated safeguard leads within a dental practice as well all members of the dental team. This course will bring you up to date with legislation, regulations and policies involved in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

The Mental Capacity Act Course educates participants on the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) from April 2009. The act provides guidance to health and social care providers, which includes dental care and treatment. The act guides on how to ensure that the best possible decisions are made about the care or treatment of patients who do not have the capacity to make some decisions for themselves. 

Our Mental Health First Aid for Dental Practices Course has been developed and written by Dr Hannah Wade, Highly Specialist Clinical Psychologist, DClinPsy, MSc, BSc. Hons, currently practicing within the NHS. It is specifically aimed at dental  professionals working in dental surgeries across the UK.

Our Communication Skills Course builds confidence and understanding of  communication skills when dealing with patients. Having good communication skills is essential when dealing with the public, whether this is discussing a procedure, a complaint or just general conversation, this is an essential skill.

Managing Complaints Course teaches participants teaches both verbal and non-verbal techniques. This program is ideal for the whole dental team, as any member of staff could be the person receiving the complaint. We realise that dental professionals work hard to provide the highest standards of care for their patients, as a result, most patients are satisfied with the care and treatment they receive. However, as with any service or product, from time-to-time things do go wrong and problems can arise leading to dissatisfaction and complaints.


What other services does First Medical Training offer to Dental Practices?

As well as offering a full range of dental first aid training and dental CPD courses to deal with dental medical emergencies. First Medical Training also offers the following services: 



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