DENTAL TREATMENT ROOM EMERGENCIES
Medical emergencies can and do occur in dental
clinics. They can be life threatening as a result of a
medical condition or an accident (e.g., chemicals or
scrap amalgam getting in eyes). Most accidents are
preventable if you observe and follow safety
procedures. All dental patients must wear approved
safety glasses with side shields. Also, passing of
instruments and medications over a patients face,
should be avoided to prevent injuries. The dental
officer will always be in charge of an emergency. As a
dental assistant, you must know how to react and treat
the injured until the medical department arrives and
Since each command may
have slightly different equipment and procedures, you
should become familiar with these emergency
procedures as soon as possible.
The best means of handling medical emergencies
is to take every precaution to prevent them.
Precautions taken in the dental treatment room or
facility include: close review of the Dental Health
Questionnaire, checking a patients vital signs, and
knowledge and use of emergency equipment.
The physical condition of a patient can be
determined by checking the following vital signs: body
temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and respiratory rate.
An adults normal body temperature may range from
97°F to 99°F (36.1°C to 37.2°C). A person with a body
temperature above 99°F has a fever, and a person with a
body temperature below 97°F has a subnormal
Most dental clinics commonly use an
electronic thermometer that displays body temperature as
numbers in a digital display. It uses a disposable plastic
cover that goes over the temperature probe and is placed
under the tongue. Always discard the plastic cover after
each use. Follow the manufacturers instructions for
use and maintenance.
As the heart pumps blood through the arteries, they
expand and contract, producing a regular heart beat or
pulsation. The number of beats per minute is the pulse
rate. For adults, a normal pulse rate ranges from 60 to
80 beats per minute; for a child, it ranges from 80 to
110 beats per minute.
Normal site for taking the pulse is the carotid
artery, located on either side of the neck (fig. 9-1). You
should always check the carotid pulse on the same side
that you are on. Never reach across a patients larynx.
To locate the carotid pulse, slide your index and middle
fingers into the groove between the trachea and the
muscles at the side of the neck where the carotid pulse
can be felt. Do not use your thumb because it has a
Figure 9-1.Locating the carotid pulse.