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Management of Acute Dental Problems

Published March 2013

Under review 2023 (see In development for details) 

This guidance provides decision support flowcharts to identify any immediate attention or advice to give to a patient and to determine the appropriate provider of subsequent care.


These publications are only available as downloadable online resources. They are no longer available in print.

Please note that the Web App version of the full guidance has been withdrawn (April 2024).

About this guidance

Patients who have an acute dental problem seek care in a variety of settings. Management of Acute Dental Problems aims to encourage the consistent provision of safe and effective care that is tailored to each patient’s needs.

Based on the main presenting symptoms, Management of Acute Dental Problems provides decision support flowcharts, which can be used to identify any immediate attention or advice to give to the patient and to determine the appropriate provider of subsequent care. Further advice is also provided about the initial management and subsequent care for a wide variety of conditions that may present as acute dental problems.

This guidance is intended for use by staff in any healthcare setting who may be asked to advise or manage patients with acute dental problems. This includes non-dental professionals, such as general medical practice, emergency department and pharmacy staff, as well as members of the dental team. The Quick Reference Guide (PDF) may be of particular interest to non-dental professionals.

Guidance development

Management of Acute Dental Problems has been developed by a multidisciplinary group. This comprised dental and non-dental professionals with a role in the management of acute dental problems and patient representatives and was supported by members of the Programme Development Team. The guidance is based on a review of available evidence and the opinion of experts and experienced practitioners and has been subject to open consultation and peer review prior to finalising for publication. Further information on the SDCEP guidance development process is available.

SDCEP acknowledges the important contribution of all those who commented during the consultation and peer review stages.

Review and updating

In 2018 the SDCEP Steering Group agreed not to prioritise extensive review and updating of the Management of Acute Dental Problems guidance.  The guidance may be subject to minor amendment if new information becomes available.  Until further notice it remains extant and available for reference.

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