Michael McCullough, Chair, Therapeutics Committee, Australian Dental Association

Although asthma frequently presents in childhood, it can occur for the first time at any age. An asthma attack can occur during dental treatment so a plan for managing these attacks is always prudent.

Patients who regularly use inhalers should be advised to bring them to dental appointments so that they can self-medicate if necessary. Ideally patients would have a written asthma action plan to provide information about asthma first aid. Dentists should ask their patients to bring their written asthma action plan and discuss with them what to do in an asthma emergency. This discussion may further prompt the patient to undertake a written asthma action plan with their doctor.

The basic principle of management of acute asthma is giving repeated doses of an inhaled bronchodilator (the 4 x 4 x 4 rule). More detail is given in Therapeutic Guidelines: oral and dental. 1


  1. Asthma Expert Group. Medical emergencies in dental practice. In: eTG complete [internet]. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; 2012. p. 173.