Do you know whether or not your dentist has an AED? If not, it may be time to find out! Each year, approximately 475,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and over 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital each year (American Heart Association). 

Although it’s uncommon, cardiac arrest can certainly occur at your dentist’s office!

Just last year, the Times-Picayune reported that a 53-year-old patient returned to his dentist’s office after a routine cleaning to have two cavities filled. 

The visit soon turned out to be anything but routine when, just moments into the procedure, the patient became non-responsive and stopped breathing. 

Thanks to an on-site AED and quick-thinking staff members who called 911 immediately and then began CPR and administering oxygen, this SCA story has a happy ending. 

“We all worked together,” said Dr. Robert Camenzuli in an interview with the Times-Picayune. “Someone was doing chest compressions, while someone else was calling 911 while someone else was in charge of giving oxygen to the patient. I applied the AED. He was breathing and alert before the paramedics arrived.” 

Although Dr. Camenzuli and his team were trained in basic life support, AEDs are easy to use and are designed to be used by untrained bystanders as well as by trained medical personnel. AEDs automatically analyze a patient’s heart rhythm and deliver shocks as needed. 

“I passed out in the chair and that’s all I know. I remember waking up feeling super disoriented not knowing where I was,” said the patient who was revived by Dr. Camenzuli and his team. “It was fortunate that they had the device and someone who was able to deal with the situation. With his help, I didn’t sustain any particular damage to my heart.”

It was a stroke of luck for the patient as some dental offices aren’t equipped with an AED. In Louisiana, for example, AEDs are required at high schools and colleges that compete in intramural athletics and in physical fitness facilities, but they are not required in dental offices.

Fortunately, many states require dentists, regardless of whether or not they administer general anesthesia or deep sedation, to have an AED available. Check out our interactive map to learn more about AED legislation in your state.

Why Does Sudden Cardiac Arrest Occur at the Dentist?

SCA can occur to anyone at any time. However, here are a few reasons why they may be more likely to occur at the dentist:

  • Dental work can raise levels of anxiety and stress, putting an additional strain on the heart.
  • Dental practices are seeing an increasing number of elderly patients with complex medical histories.
  • More and more Americans are suffering from chronic heart disease.
  • Dentists frequently administer local and general anesthesia, which can cause SCA.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that all dentists and dental hygienists be certified in basic life support, which includes CPR and the proper use of an AED. While the ADA suggests defibrillators be part of every emergency kit, its “Guidelines for the Use of Sedation and General Anesthesia by Dentists” call for an AED to be immediately available in practices that perform deep sedation or general anesthesia. 

Many dentists cite cost as a major reason why their office isn’t equipped with the life-saving device (Dentistry Today). 

The key to surviving SCA is early recognition and immediate action. Ask your dentist if they have an AED. If they don’t, ask them why! If cost is an issue, encourage your dentist to visit AED.com or call Cardio Partners at 866-349-4362 and inquire about our dental AED packages. 

DISCLAIMER: Information and resources found on the cardiopartners.com and aed.com websites/blogs is intended to educate, inform, and motivate readers to make their health and wellness decisions after consulting with their healthcare provider. The authors are not healthcare providers. NO information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition.