Be prepared for emergencies

Dec. 1, 2010
Dental and dental hygiene visits are anxiety-inducing experiences for patients. This heightened anxiety can increase the risk of medical emergencies during dental treatment.

Dental and dental hygiene visits are anxiety-inducing experiences for patients. This heightened anxiety can increase the risk of medical emergencies during dental treatment. Ellen Grimes, RDH, MA, MPA, EdD, has created a program titled, "Medical Emergencies: Essentials for the Dental Professional."

The course utilizes a method based on case studies for the discussion of the correct emergency diagnosis, as well as the proper treatment procedures that the dental professional should use if an emergency should arise. The prevention of a medical emergency is stressed by the use of appropriate assessment procedures prior to actual treatment. The importance of maintaining an adequate medical emergency kit is also emphasized.

Upon completing the program, participants will state the rationale for baseline vital signs; understand the importance of medical emergency simulations; understand the importance of maintaining current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification; recognize the symptoms and explain the emergency procedure(s) to be followed for various medical emergencies that can occur in the dental office; and identify essential emergency equipment for the office emergency cart.

Medical emergencies can occur anytime, anywhere. Dental professionals need to be prepared for any emergency situation that may arise and control the situation until trained emergency medical personnel arrive. The first few minutes of any emergency are critical, and Ellen's program assists dental professionals in dealing with potential life-threatening circumstances.

All team members are encouraged to participate in the program since it is the responsibility of the entire team to handle a medical emergency. Ellen presents the program in PowerPoint and includes various handouts which can be taken back to the office as emergency guides. Question and answers are encouraged throughout the program.

Ellen began presenting the program after years of teaching medical emergencies at the University of Vermont dental hygiene program. She was unsatisfied with textbooks that were offered for the course so she began researching the medical emergency literature and eventually approached Prentice Hall with the idea of a textbook. Medical Emergencies: Essentials for the Dental Professional was published in 2008.

As a synopsis of the textbook states, it contains practical, understandable, and evidence-based information; the book introduces the most common medical emergencies that dental professionals may encounter in clinical practice. The course reflects and adds to the key knowledge that dental professionals can rely on when the need arises.

In addition, Ellen has recently collaborated with Philips Sonicare to create an online webinar on medical emergencies at where hygienists and dental team members can complete the continuing education program at their leisure (the course fee is $30 and provides two CEUs).

Ellen has been a dental hygiene educator for 29 years and has been teaching medical emergencies for a majority of those years.

For information on Ellen, the textbook, or her programs, contact her at [email protected]. Wishing all a happy holiday season and healthy 2011!

Beginning this month, I will be highlighting a featured course from I Many of these courses are suitable for hygienists and other team members. I feel that this is an appropriate venue to discuss these excellent programs. I am looking forward to presenting these programs to you.

This month's" program is a two-part continuing education program titled, "Quelling Cold Sores and Aphthous Ulcers" and "Relieving Xerostomia." The goals of the former are to provide readers with information on the etiology, pathophysiology, and treatment of recurrent aphthous ulcers and recurrent herpes labialis. The second part of the program will offer the reader information on the etiological factors of xerostomia, the signs and symptoms, and the treatments available for dry mouth.

The combined program offers three CE units upon successful completion of the test and payment of fees. For readers of RDH magazine, there is a special discount of 40% on the two-part program. Readers should use the code RDHDEC10 (case sensitive, no spacing), which is good from Dec. 1, 2010, through Jan. 31, 2011.

Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FAADH, is a fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and a member of ADHA and other professional associations. Ann-Marie presents continuing-education programs for hygienists and dental team members and has written numerous articles on a variety of topics. She can be reached at [email protected].

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