Smiles for Life National Oral Health Curriculum: Module 4. Dental Emergencies

Publication ID Published Version
9209 August 10, 2012 8


Smiles for Life Module 4, Acute Dental Emergencies, covers topics for health care providers who take care of ambulatory or hospitalized patients. The module covers a range of topics including oral pain and infections including abscesses and cellulitis. In addition, students learn about common trauma to primary and secondary dentition, including the basics of exam, management, and, when necessary, referral. Prevention of injuries is also covered.

AAMC Basic Oral Health Curriculum competencies for domain 7, EMERGENCY CARE, which apply first line management to stabilize oral emergencies and traumas to point of appropriate referral are covered. These include:

  1. Triage basic dental trauma (i.e., avulsed teeth, fractures, intrusions, etc.).
  2. Manage common dental emergencies (i.e., pain, swelling, bleeding, infection) to appropriate referral.
  3. Develop a diagnostic approach to the patient presenting with oral pain that includes both intraoral and extraoral causes.

Smiles for Life: A National Oral Health Curriculum is a product of the Group on Oral Health of The Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. Smiles for Life is the nation’s most comprehensive and widely used oral health curriculum designed for primary care clinicians. The 8 module course covers the relationship of oral to systemic health, child oral health, adult oral health, dental emergencies, oral health in pregnancy, fluoride varnish, and the oral examination.

The complete curriculum is web-based and is designed as an interactive educational tool for both individuals and groups from all aspects of the health care profession. It includes interactive online courses and clinical cases for individual and small group education, downloadable PowerPoint modules suitable for larger group presentations, instructional videos, and patient education materials. Free access to all materials is available at

The Smiles for Life (SFL) Curriculum, including Module 4 - Dental Emergencies, have been endorsed by:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Society of Teachers of Family Medicine
  • American Academy of Physician Assistants
  • Physician Assistant Education Association
  • Association of Faculties of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
  • National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
  • National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health
  • American Association of Public Health Dentistry
  • Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association

The SFL Curriculum has been downloaded from our website more than 140,000 times ( including:

  • 58,000 courses
  • 77,000 supplements
  • 11,000 online courses completed

The SFL Curriculum is:

  • The core oral health curriculum used in 30+ medical schools
  • Utilized in most Family Medicine residency programs nationwide
  • Core curriculum for National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health 

The SFL curriculum was awarded the Society of Teachers in Family Medicine (STFM) Innovative Program Award honoring excellence in development of an educational program in 2007 and received Letters of Commendation from the American Dental Association and American Academy of Family Physicians’ (AAFP) Commission on Education in 2011.

The proven effects of the curriculum have been published:

  1. Silk H, Stille S, Baldor R, Joseph E. Implementation of STFM’s ‘Smiles for Life’ oral health curriculum in a medical school interclerkship. Fam Med 2009;41(7):248-252.
  2. Douglass AB, Deutchman M, Douglass J, Gonsalves W, Maier R, Silk H, Stevens N, Tysinger J, Wrightson AS. Incorporation of a National Oral Health Curriculum Into Family Medicine Residency Programs. Fam Med 2009;41(3):159


Maier R, Douglass A, Clark M, Deutchman M, Douglass J, Gonsalves W, Quinonez R, Silk H, Tysinger J, Wrightson A. Smiles for Life National Oral Health Curriculum: Module 4. Dental Emergencies. MedEdPORTAL Publications; 2012. Available from:

Contains time-sensitive information that will likely be inaccurate, obsolete, or irrelevant by July 24, 2015

Contains Information Suitable for Patient Education

Educational Objectives

  1. To diagnose, initially manage, and appropriately refer oral pain, oral infections, and dental trauma to primary and permanent teeth.
  2. To describe the common characteristics of dental trauma in children and adults.
  3. To identify two true dental emergencies.
  4. To implement strategies aimed at the prevention of oral injuries.


  • Abscess, Building Oral Health Capacity (BOHC) Collection, Public Health Sciences, Population Health


  • Medical
    • Emergency Medicine
    • Family Medicine
    • Internal Medicine
    • Preventive Medicine
  • Dental
    • Pediatric Dentistry
    • Preventive Dentistry


  • Knowledge for Practice
  • Patient Care
  • Practice-based Learning & Improvement
  • Systems-based Practice

Professional Interest

  • Community Health
  • Oral Health
  • Population Health
  • Public Health Sciences

Instructional Methods

  • Independent Learning
  • Lecture
  • Problem-based Learning (PBL)

Organ Systems

  • Gastrointestinal system

Academic Focus

  • Clinical Sciences
    • Clinical Exam
    • Clinical Skills/Doctoring

Intended Audience

  • Professional School
    • Dental Student
    • Medical Student


  • Presentation

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ISSN 2374-8265