Learning Objectives

For the patient with acute dental pain:

  1. Describe the role of the emergency department when treating a patient with acute dental pain.  
  2. Identify the key elements of the history and physical examination that support the presence of acute dental pain.
  3. List the indications for ordering basic and/or advanced imaging and where such imaging should be performed.
  4. Name two effective pharmacological treatments for patients with acute dental pain.
  5. Identify when antibiotics are indicated for patients with acute dental pain

Target  Audiences:

  • Medical Students: Year 4
  • Nurse Practitioner Students: Years 2-3 
  • Dental Students: Year 3

Case Description

This case focuses on a healthy adult with acute dental pain.  Because many individuals do not have access to dental care, hospital emergency departments and urgent care facilities have become a common point of care for individuals seeking relief for this type of pain.  The goal of this educational module is to present key components of the history and physical examination for a patient presenting with acute odontogenic pain in both a hospital emergency department setting and in a dental care facility; discuss why opioid analgesics and antibiotics are not the treatments of choice in many scenarios; familiarize students with the definitive dental diagnosis; and discuss strategies for referral to minimize unnecessary return visits.

Potential Impact of Case 5 Education

Improve knowledge: Reduce unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics and advanced imaging and improve provider awareness of the modalities in managing acute dental pain
Change attitudes: Appreciate the role of the dentist, physician, nurse practitoner and pharmacist in facilitating the management of acute dental pain.

Gain skills: Improve treatment outcomes for patients with acute dental pain by implementing appropriate management and referral strategies.

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