Emergencies in the Dental Office

Dental office tragedy shows need for emergency preparation

By Joanna Brown

It's been more than a decade that Larry Sangrik has been lecturing about medical emergency preparedness, urging his colleagues to educate themselves and their staffs to respond quickly and appropriately when the unexpected arises. He knows that it’s not a question of IF but WHEN will you have a medical emergency in the office.

Larry Sangrik“Most dentists think a medical emergency won’t happen during the scope of their practice,” said Dr. Sangrik, a general dentist in Chardon, OH. But statistically, the fact that you’re dealing with people – the number of people who come into your office – suggests you will deal with a medical emergency. It doesn’t have to be life threatening. It may be an allergy, or low blood sugar in a diabetic patient.

Dr. Sangrik routinely scans the national news in search of examples that will keep his content current. They’re not hard to find – there have been 19 pediatric deaths alone since 1996.

He stopped in his tracks, however, when he learned of how Raven Maria Blanco’s family had responded to her 2007 death under conscious sedation in a dental office.

The Raven Maria Blanco Foundation, established by the 8-year-old’s family, aims to increase awareness of and preparedness for medical emergencies in dental offices. With Dr. Sangrik as its consultant, the foundation is working within organized dentistry to influence dentists and their staffs.

“They are committed to raising awareness within the profession and working with the dental profession,” Dr. Sangrik said.

The Institute of Medical Preparedness (www.emergencyactionguide.com) has prepared a list of six steps toward emergency preparedness. The Raven Maria Blanco Foundation would like to see it implemented nationally.

“It’s an easy system. Dentists have good intentions, but they may not know where to go to get their offices started,” Dr. Sangrik said. “Dental visits can be stressful events to patients. Some type of medical event may occur, and we need to be prepared for it.”

The Institute’s Six Links of Survival can be divided into two groups. There are three educational components – doctor training, staff training, mock drills – and three physical components – the presence of an emergency manual to guide your response, having the right equipment on hand, and stocking appropriate medications.

“These are timeless principles that offices need to incorporate,” Dr. Sangrik said. “Science will change and improve and be different 20 years from now, but these six areas will remain. Even as technology evolves, these six things will still be true.”

Be prepared for emergencies in your dental office

The Raven Maria Blanco Foundation aims to increase the awareness of medical emergency preparedness in dental offices across the United States. The foundation was established by the family of 8-year-old Raven Maria Blanco following her 2007 death under sedation in a dental office.

The Institute of Medical Preparedness, in partnership with the Raven Maria Blanco Foundation, has prepared a list of survival. Dentists and their staffs might consider the Blanco family’s story and the downloadable handbook below as they work to better equip themselves to respond to medical emergencies of all kinds.

View the public service announcement from the Raven Maria Blanco Foundation below.