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Believe it or not, it’s not unheard of for someone to suffer a heart attack, stroke or fainting spell while in the dentist’s office. I’ve had two patients faint over the years and one woman had a symptoms of a stroke. In 2 of the 3 cases, I hadn’t even started any dental work but the medical emergency training was possibly life saving, especially for the stroke patient.

We ask patients about existing health problems, but sometimes people don’t know that they have high blood pressure or other systemic diseases and we are the first to see the signs. It’s understandable; people tend to go to their dentist more often than they go to their physician. The stress of dental work, getting teeth extracted or even being in a dental chair is enough to trigger a medical emergency in some people. Dentists, many times, are the first medical professionals to discover a person’s previously-unknown illnesses, such as high blood pressure or heart disease.

Lake Harbor is prepared

To better prepare for these incidents, I recently attended a medical emergency course sponsored by the Academy of General Dentistry. Dan Becker, the speaker, has written and has taught extensively on medical emergencies and sedation.

At Lake Harbor Dental, we have trained extensively to know when someone is having a medical emergency and how to do basic life support, if needed, until paramedics arrive. Actually we re-certify each year with a EMT in our office. He brings dummies and we practice scenarios in our dental chairs, waiting room, and even bathroom. We also train on life saving medications that may be indicated and update them each year.

We routinely check a patient’s blood pressure before major dental work. If it’s outside of safe boundaries, we may not do some procedures, like tooth extraction, until the patient sees a physician.

Of course, the vast majority of patients who see us never have any problems like this. It’s good to know, however, that if a medical emergency does appear, patients at Lake Harbor Dental are in good hands.