Original Publication
Open Access

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

Published: August 10, 2012 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9209

Included in this publication:

  • BOHC Toolkit.pdf
  • Smiles for Life Module 4 Acute Dental Problems.pptx
  • Smiles for Life Module 4 Instructor's Guide.doc

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


This resource on 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 such as abscesses and cellulitis. In addition, students learn about common trauma to primary and secondary dentition, including the basics of exam, management, and referral. Prevention of injuries is also covered. This resource also covers the Association of American Medical College’s basic oral health curriculum competencies for domain 7, emergency care, which apply first-line management to stabilize oral emergencies and traumas to the point of appropriate referral. These competencies include triaging basic dental trauma, managing common dental emergencies to appropriate referral, and developing a diagnostic approach to the patient presenting with oral pain that includes both intraoral and extraoral causes. This resource is designed as an interactive educational tool for both individuals and groups from all aspects of the health care profession. It is a part of the series Smiles for Life: A National Oral Health Curriculum, the nation’s most comprehensive and widely used oral health curriculum designed for primary care clinicians. The eight-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.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this resource, learners should be able to:

  1. Diagnose, initially manage, and appropriately refer oral pain, oral infections, and dental trauma to primary and permanent teeth.
  2. Describe the common characteristics of dental trauma in children and adults.
  3. Identify two true dental emergencies.
  4. Implement strategies aimed at the prevention of oral injuries.

Author Information

  • Russell Maier: Central Washington Family Medicine Residency Program
  • Alan Douglass: Middlesex Hospital
  • Melinda Clark: Albany Medical Center
  • Mark Deutchman: University of Colorado
  • Joanna Douglass: University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine
  • Wanda Gonsalves: Medical University of South Carolina
  • Rocio Quinonez: Schools of Dentistry and Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Hugh Silk: University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • James Tysinger: University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
  • A. Stevens Wrightson: University of Kentucky College of Medicine

None to report.

Development of the Smiles for Life curriculum was supported by unrestricted grants from the National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health (NIIOH), which in turn was funded by the Dentaquest Foundation, Washington Dental Service Foundation, and Connecticut Health Foundation. This project is also sponsored in part by funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration/Maternal Child Health Bureau grant #U44MC20223.


Maier R, Douglass A, Clark M, et al. Smiles for Life National Oral Health Curriculum: module 4. Dental emergencies. MedEdPORTAL. 2012;8:9209. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9209

This publication is co-sponsored by the American Dental Education Association.