When someone visits the emergency room after hours with a toothache, doctors often have no option but to prescribe pain pills, which are highly addictive and minimally effective at relieving tooth pain. Students and faculty from A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) have another idea. Working closely with Linda Knutson, PA-C, MEd and ATSU’s Physician Assistant Studies program, they’re training medical providers to give dental injections, a more effective solution that presents no risk of addiction. The local anesthesia keeps patients numb for several hours, buying them time until they can get to a dentist. ATSU-ASDOH is combatting the opioid epidemic with ingenuity and interprofessional collaboration.
The program began in 2016. Since then, more than 200 physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, PA students, and medical students have gone through the training. Participants begin with an online course on dental anesthesia. Then they meet in-person for a “skills day,” visiting stations led by ATSU-ASDOH students and faculty to practice various aspects of the process using an innovative tool called the Safe-D-Need and dental anesthesia manikins.
Faculty members Scott Howell, DMD, MPH, FSCD, ’14, and Colleen Trombly, RDH, MHSA, lead the first-of-its-kind program for ATSU-ASDOH. They recently presented on its success at the American Dental Education Association. They’ve also received a lot of positive feedback from participants who appreciate the opportunity to learn a skill taught through interprofessional education.
“I’m in my emergency department rotation right now, and today I did my first dental block on a patient who was in excruciating pain from a huge cavity,” says one ATSU PA student. “The patient was literally crying because of the pain. I was a bit nervous while doing the injection, but after about 30 seconds, the patient had total relief. It was like magic! I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to learn from dentists at school. It came in handy.”