Last summer, three second-year dental hygiene students at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center noticed an inconsistency between their licensure requirements and state law regarding automated external defibrillators (AEDs). While the now graduates were required to have basic lifesaving training with AED certification, Texas statutes did not require the devices to be present in every dental office.
As part of their dental hygiene research course that fall, the students found that AEDs are required in schools and nursing homes, but the state only requires AEDs in offices where low-risk to moderate-risk patients will undergo sedation or anesthesia, even though sudden cardiac arrest is one of the most common emergencies experienced in dental offices.
“It’s a very interesting topic with national implications, especially in regard to individual states’ dental practice acts,” said the group’s mentor, Eric Fox, RDH, MS, clinical assistant professor in the Texas A&M College of Dentistry’s Caruth School of Dental Hygiene. “In my personal experience, I would say AEDs in the dental office are an exception, not the norm.”
The students, Ashlyn Atwell, Briana Garza, and Nina Matheney, presented the results of their research at the Student Informative Poster Presentation Competition at the American Dental Hygienists’ Association annual meeting in June and took first place. But their victory didn’t come without significant hard work, Fox said.
“Their biggest obstacle came at the beginning of their research, and that was finding appropriate research studies and legal cases for their literature review,” Fox said. “In the end, they did find what they needed.”
The students found that one of the biggest barriers to AEDs in the dental office is cost, with most ranging from $1,500 to $3,500, followed closely by the perceived lack of need and lax regulation. Patients most at risk in deregulated states such as Texas include those who are silently anxious, have undiagnosed heart problems, or experience severe allergic reactions to dental materials, the students reported.
“The topic should be of significant concern to all dental professionals. There have been multiple documented legal cases that our graduates also cite where dental providers’ licensures were suspended, some for a decade, for failure to provide emergency management by not having access to emergency equipment, one of which included a defibrillator,” said Faizan Kabani, RDH, PhD, an assistant professor who oversees dental hygiene student research.
“Sudden cardiac arrest may manifest without warning, which is why the best prevention is being prepared. Imagine how much we can contribute to improving our patients’ quality of life if we are collectively prepared with AEDs in our dental offices,” Kabani said.
The graduates are now pursuing publication of their work in Dimensions of Dental Hygiene in early 2019.