Preparing Your Dental Office to Respond to Cardiac Arrest

Preparing Your Dental Office to Respond to Cardiac Arrest

March 28, 2019 - James Ton

Working in a dental office, we rarely think of sudden, life-threatening emergencies. And yet, dentists and dental hygienists are required to renew their CPR certification. In the United States, every 13 per 10,000 people each year suffer from cardiac arrest outside of hospital settings. At-risk patients such as the elderly, and those with medical complications, may undergo dental procedures which could aggravate pre-existing conditions. Additionally, patients may have adverse reactions to anesthesia or sedation. Of all the possible emergencies that may happen in a dental office, sudden cardiac arrest is among the most likely to result in the death of a patient.

When someone stops breathing or their heart stops beating, it takes only 4 to 6 minutes before lack of oxygen can result in brain damage or death. The main purpose of CPR is to restore partial flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and heart, extending the brief window of opportunity for a successful resuscitation without permanent brain damage.

Treating sudden cardiac arrest is a coordinated effort within your office and staff in order to afford the victim the best chance of survival. Below are the steps of CPR from the American Red Cross to keep in mind if such an emergency should arise in your dental office:

  • Check the Scene and the Person- Make sure the scene is safe, then tap the person on the shoulder and shout "Are you OK?" to ensure that the person needs help. When in doubt, prepare for CPR. It is better to apply CPR to a person not in need than to not apply CPR to a person in need.
  • Call 911 for Assistance- If it's evident that the person needs help, call (or ask one of your office staff to call) 911, then send someone to get an AED. Be sure to continually check the AED in your office to make sure the batteries are still charged and the pads are unexpired.
  • Open the Airway- With the person lying on his or her back, tilt the head back slightly to lift the chin.
  • Check for breathing- Listen carefully, for no more than 10 seconds, for sounds of breathing. Occasional gasping sounds, described as snoring, gurgling, moaning, snorting, agonal, or labored breathing, do not equate to breathing. If there is no breathing, begin CPR.
  • Push Hard, Push Fast- Place your hands, one on top of the other, in the middle of the chest. With your arms locked, use your body weight to help you administer compressions that are at least 2 inches deep and delivered at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. There are considerations to make for person’s who suffer cardiac arrest while in a dental chair. If the person can be quickly moved to the floor without delaying CPR, then this is generally recommended. If the patient cannot be moved quickly enough, or the space is too small, consider placing a stool underneath the chair to provide support.
  • Deliver Rescue Breaths- With the person's head tilted back slightly and the chin lifted, place a CPR face mask over person's mouth and nose to make a complete seal. Blow into the mask to make the chest rise. Deliver two rescue breaths, then continue compressions. If CPR masks are not available, you may breath into the person’s mouth while pinching their nose. If breathing into a person’s mouth would be uncomfortable, simply continue compressions.
  • Continue CPR Steps- Keep performing cycles of chest compressions and breathing until the person exhibits signs of life (such as breathing), an AED becomes available, or EMS or a trained medical responder arrives on scene.

Although research generally suggests only 10 to 20 percent of patients who receive CPR after experiencing cardiac arrest survive long enough to be discharged from a hospital, the main purpose of administering CPR is to give victims that fighting chance. Make sure your office has been properly trained as the more people who are certified, the higher the chance a life may be saved.