Home > Published Guidance > Acute Dental Problems

Management of Acute Dental Problems

cover sheet of Management of Acute Dental problems guidancePublished March 2013

Available in several formats, 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.


  • Full Guidance (PDF) – decision support flowcharts and further advice on the management of a range of clinical conditions.
  • Quick Reference Guide (PDF) – decision support flowcharts.
  • Web App – an interactive electronic version of the full guidance (best viewed with current browsers e.g. Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer 9 or later).

An offline version of the Web-App is also in development.  Details will be posted here.screenshot of Management of Acute Dental Problems web app


  • Printed copies of the Quick Reference Guide are available.
  • The Full Guidance is only available as a downloadable online resource. It is no longer available in print.

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) and Web App 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.

Guidance Development Group

Name Position
Graham Ball (Chair) Consultant in Dental Public Health, South East Scotland; Clinical Dental Lead, NHS 24
Martin Allan Patient Partner, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
Duncan Campbell Consultant in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, NHS Fife
Deborah Devlin Lead Nurse – NHS 24 & Scottish Emergency Dental Service
Douglas Duncan Assistant Clinical Director, NHS Lothian
David Felix Postgraduate Dental Dean, NHS Education for Scotland; Consultant in Oral Medicine, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
James Ferguson Consultant in Emergency Medicine, NHS Grampian
Abdul Haleem General Dental Practitioner, Paisley; Dental Practice Advisor, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
Tina Halford-McGuff Patient Representative
Nicola Innes Senior Clinical Lecturer in Paediatric Dentistry, University of Dundee
Penny Lockwood General Medical Practitioner, Dundee; Honorary Lecturer, Tayside Centre for General Practice, University of Dundee
John McAnaw Head of Pharmacy, NHS 24
Margaret Madden Out-of-hours Call Handler/Receptionist, NHS Lothian
Charles Maran Specialist in Periodontics, Edinburgh Dental Institute
Avril Neilson Consultant in Oral Surgery, Dundee Dental Hospital and School
Emma O’Keefe Specialty Registrar in Dental Public Health, NHS Fife
Derek Richards Consultant in Dental Public Health, South East Scotland
David Ricketts Professor of Cariology & Conservative Dentistry, University of Dundee
Verena Toedtling Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Specialist Registrar in Oral Surgery, University of Manchester
Richard Welbury Professor of Paediatric Dentistry, University of Glasgow

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

A document providing further details about the evidence synthesis used to inform the development of Management of Acute Dental Problems is available on request: scottishdental.cep@nes.scot.nhs.uk.

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.