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Why You Can't Practice for an Emergency When You are Responding to One

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

How many times have you and your dental team conducted a mock emergency drill in the last year?

If the answer is zero, your patients, your practice, and your career are at risk.

Unfortunately, dental patient safety isn't high on the list of priorities for many dental offices, and their only "practice" for an emergency is when they are actually having one. An actual emergency leaves no room for practice or rehearsal.

But remember this... during an emergency, your performance never rises to the occasion, it sinks to the level of your training.

If you haven't practiced a mock emergency drill, your level of training is zero.

Don't want your level of emergency training to be zero? Conducting regular mock emergency drills is critical. (Find out how to routinely practice mock drills by downloading this guide.)

Here are 4 reasons why you can't wait for an emergency to happen to conduct emergency preparation training:

1. Time Sensitivity and Immediate Response

One of the defining characteristics of dental emergencies is the need for immediate response. When a patient experiences something like anaphylaxis, every second counts. In fact, for anaphylactic shock, you have about 180 seconds to properly treat your patient before disaster can strike. In such critical moments, the focus must be providing the necessary care promptly, leaving no time for deliberate "practice" or preparation.

2. Poorly Handled Emergencies Quickly Become High-Stress Events

Dental emergencies often create a high-stress environment for both the patient and the dental professional. Patients may experience fear, anxiety, and pain, while you may experience shock that an emergency is happening in your operatory. Your shock may be followed by extreme anxiety, even fear, as you realize you are not prepared to provide the proper treatment algorithm. In such emotionally charged situations, your priority becomes properly managing the emergency rather than rehearsing or practicing.

3. Emergencies Test Your Adaptability and Problem-Solving Skills

Responding to dental emergencies requires quick thinking, adaptability, and problem-solving skills. No two emergencies are exactly the same, and you must be able to think on your feet to address the specific needs of each patient's situation. While general knowledge and training provide a foundation, it is the ability to immediately recall the basic steps of the emergency treatment algorithm and then adapt the algorithm to the unique circumstances of that patient's emergency. This ability comes from routine mock emergency drills practice.

Repetition is the mother of learning.

Practical experience - gained in simulated emergencies, rather than theoretical practice, becomes the key to effectively managing dental emergencies. You can't develop this practical experience waiting for a real emergency to happen. Real emergencies just don't happen often enough.

4. Limited Opportunities for Practice

Given the infrequency of dental emergencies, there are limited opportunities for dental professionals to practice specific emergency scenarios. The majority of dental practices rarely encounter emergencies on a daily basis. As a result, there are fewer chances for you and your team to rehearse and simulate various emergency situations in a controlled environment.

Bottom line? Mock emergency drills save lives, help risk-proof your practice, and can save your career. If you don't know how to get started on the routine practice of mock emergency drills, get our free resource: the Sample Mock Emergency Drills Guide.

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