Emergency Exams Should Not Create Emergencies

Emergency exams are part of dentistry. Patients have a tooth ache or a crown comes loose and they need to see you. And dentists and teams love to help. But how many times do your good intentions reeve havoc on your schedule, creating other emergencies?

Part of the reason emergency exams create challenges is you have to find somewhere in the schedule to put the patients. One way to mitigate this challenge is to plan ahead by pre-blocking times. Consider which days you typically treat the most emergencies—the beginning of the week, for example. If you average two emergencies on Monday, pre-block times for those emergencies. Pre-blocking helps you maintain the flow of your day while still seeing people in need.


When you consider where to pre-block, think about what cause the least interruption to the flow of the day. Practices often pre-block right before or after lunch, or at the end of the day.

The next challenge with emergencies is the amount of time they take. Dentists and teams sometimes point out that emergency patients show up with a laundry list of issues and questions above and beyond their chief complaint. That is why you need to focus on the chief issue.

Remember, an emergency exam is not a comprehensive exam, and it’s not a time to discuss a full range of treatment needs. If you allow the exam to run beyond the allotted time, you run late for other non-emergency patients. So the key is to keep to the task at hand.


When patients try to steer the conversation beyond their acute need, politely guide them to schedule for a comprehensive exam, which will give you the appropriate amount of time to address all of the potential dental needs.

Helping patients in need is always appreciated. Take the necessary steps to ensure your emergency exams do not create other emergencies.

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