What should you do if someone faints in your practice?

February 27, 2013
Issue 2

It’s good to be prepared for the unexpected every day. Did you know that fainting is the most common medical emergency in dentistry affecting patients? But the good part is it’s also easy to handle and manage … if you’re prepared.

It’s good to be prepared for the unexpected every day. Did you know that fainting is the most common medical emergency in dentistry affecting patients? But the good part is it’s also easy to handle and manage … if you’re prepared.

Most patients reach the point of fainting due to fear and it usually happens as local anesthesia is applied.

Here’s how you can recognize if your patient is on the verge of fainting:

  • They complain of dizziness, weakness and/or appear to be sweating profusely.

  • Paleness and shortness of breath

  • Complaints of nausea, headache and/or blurred vision

If a patient loses consciousness during an anesthetic injection, their mouth will close and no longer be responsive.

When dealing with a patient who has fainted or seems like they are on the verge, the dentist or hygienist should lay the person in a flat position as much as possible and elevate the person's legs slightly. Also loosen any tight closing. This increases blood supply to the brain supplying more oxygen. The patient should recover consciousness within 10 seconds. 

You should call a health care provider immediately if your patient:

  • Hit his or her head when fainting

  • Is pregnant or has a heart condition or other serious illness

  • Experiences unusual symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, or difficulty talking

For more emergency situation preparedness, check out this video with Dr. Brad Guyton of Jameson Consulting. He addresses every practice's worst nightmare: a 911 emergency.