Manage medical emergencies

Law & Regulation
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Dental Express’ Martin Oates explains how to “Manage the mayhem of medical emergencies”

The life of any patient can be at immediate risk during a medical emergency. The entire dental team must be prepared to take direct action in order to save lives.

Knowledge is key
Although medical emergencies are unpredictable, dental practitioner Brian Needham, proved how invaluable knowledge and experience can be when he saved the life of a patient suffering from a heart attack in his practice earlier this year [1].

The General Dental Council (GDC) states that it is essential for all members of staff in the dental practice to be adequately trained in dealing with medical emergencies, including resuscitation, and evidence must be kept of any relevant courses [2]. Staff are also recommended to complete a course of basic life support training once a year.

Follow procedures
In the event of a medical emergency, the Resuscitation Council (RC) guidelines advise you to stay calm and ensure that you and your staff are safe before examining the patient using the ABCDE approach to assess if they ‘look unwell’ [3]:

Airway – assess that there is no obstruction to their airway
Breathing – check that the rhythm of their breathing is normal
Circulation – has their circulatory state been compromised? If their tongue and lips turn blue this may be the case
Disability – make a swift initial assessment of the patient’s consciousness
Exposure – you may need to loosen or remove the patient’s clothing to adequately treat the patient

If the patient’s condition deteriorates, you or a member of your team may be required to administer oxygen.

Utilising drugs and equipment
It is crucial that practices have a kit where all drugs that can be used in a medical emergency are stowed together in a purposely designed storage bag or container. All members of staff must know where it is kept. An automated external defibrillator (AED) must also be stored in-practice to help revive patients suffering from cardiorespiratory arrest.

The Zoll AED Plus from Dental Express (a trading division of Surgery Express LLP) is the only machine that can track your progress when cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) commences. Real-time feedback and visual prompts will guide you through the process so you can be confident in your application.

Take time to reflect
Following treatment for any medical emergency, reflecting and debriefing as a team will enable you and your staff to learn from what happened during the emergency and discuss any steps you can take to improve your clinical practice. Remember, this knowledge could save a life.


Martin is Sales and Marketing Development Manager of Surgery Express. Martin has enjoyed a wide range of experience in both the dental and medical professions. For more information, visit, call 0800 707 6212 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

1] Di Salvo, M. (2017). Heart attack victim saved by dentist when he suffered cardiac arrest in waiting room. 
2] General Dental Council (2017). Medical emergencies. 
3] Resuscitation Council UK (2017). Quality standards for cardiopulmonary resuscitation practice and training."dental"