• Stephen W. Harden

How Dental Assistants Can Protect Dentistry

Updated: Aug 13


Stories about dental patients who die or who are harmed as a result of poorly managed emergencies, especially while under sedation or anesthesia, continue to make the nightly news. These stories often go viral on social media. When root cause analyses of these events are conducted, they clearly show that the dental team was not prepared for the emergency and that applicable sedation and anesthesia guidelines were violated, 


As a result of these bad outcomes after dental emergencies, dentistry is under attack.


Both the public and government officials are now asking why these events are happening and what kind of oversight is in place. Dentistry has reached a critical stage. Dentistry must do a better job of policing its performance during emergencies, or it runs the risk of an outside entity or agency assuming the oversight function.


If performance during emergencies, especially those involving sedation or anesthesia, doesn't improve, there is a possibility that a medical association such as the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) or the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) might try to assume the oversight function of anesthesia and sedation services in dental offices. In fact, the ASA said that it “has witnessed a growing awareness of adverse events in dental office-based settings associated with sedation and/or anesthesia care—these events have continued to occur with unacceptable frequency.”


Although a partnership with organizations such as ASA and AANA can be helpful to dentistry, dentists, with the help of Dental Assistants, should do everything they can to improve emergency performance and continue to provide their own oversight. To achieve this goal, the help of Dental Assistants is critical, The DALE Foundation, the official affiliate of the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) says, “Busy dental offices see thousands of patients each year and keeping those visits safe for everyone is essential. Dental assistants are on the front lines of keeping both patients and providers safe.”

Because Dental Assistants are on the front lines of keeping patients safe, they can help protect dentistry by taking emergency preparedness training such as Advanced Life Support for Dental Assistants (ALSDA). This type of training prepares Dental Assistants to be the patient safety expert their dentists and patients need. Courses such as ALSDA provide all of the critical safety skills Dental Assistants must have to become the patient safety expert in dental offices.


Dental office emergencies happen every day across the country and a well prepared Dental Assistant is one of the most critical factors in how well the dental team responds. Training courses like ALSDA prepare Dental Assistants to responsibly play their critical role in patient safety and to effectively respond to dental office medical emergencies.

Bottom line?

A Dental Assistant properly prepared to expertly handle an emergency can help protect the dental industry.



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