Adams School of Dentistry: Procedure for Swallowed Foreign Objects



To outline the protocol for incidents involving patients swallowing various foreign objects associated with dental treatment including, but not limited to:

  1. rubber dam clamps,
  2. burs,
  3. crowns,
  4. implant parts,
  5. pieces of broken instruments, and
  6. debris.


All Adams School of Dentistry (ASOD) faculty, staff, residents, students, and patients.


General Information

  1. Provider will stay with the patient, ensure the immediate area is safe and free of hazards, monitor vital signs, observe for acute respiratory distress, and make a preliminary diagnosis from the clinical signs, symptoms, and patient’s response to careful questioning.

  2. If patient is stable and aware, provider should explain to the patient the purpose and procedure for obtaining radiographs.
  3. Provider or appointee will complete an Online Incident Report (, which will provide a summary of next steps, paperwork, maps, alert all individuals, of the issue, and automatically document preliminary steps.

Regular Hours & Non-Emergency

  1. Regular hours are considered to be Monday – Friday, from 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM.
  2. Provider of appointee will escort the patient to ASOD Radiology, located on the 1st floor of Tarrson Hall and at reception, advise that the visit is in relation to a Swallowed Foreign Object incident. Appropriate representative from ASoD Radiology is automatically alerted to the situation, will guide provider through issue, and provide a Radiology Order Form.
  3. Patient will require a Medical Record Number (MRN), if they do not already have one. If an MRN is required, provider or appointee will call (984) 974-2041, option 1, and explain the necessity to expedite the call.
  4. Write the MRN on the Radiology Order Form and make a note for later.
  5. Provider or appointee will escort the patient, with completed Radiology Order Form, to UNC Radiology Department. Map to appropriate area is automatically provided after submission of Online Incident Report (
    • Transportation to hospital radiology (x-ray) is the responsibility of the attending provider or the designated assignee.
    • Transportation for sedated, but not emergent, patients may pose special risks. Obtain a wheelchair from the ground floor of Tarrson Hall, Dental Faculty Practice, Graduate Periodontics or OMFS and transport the patient to the hospital.
  6. During transit, monitor the patient for signs of respiratory distress and advise the patient that if they receive a bill to contact the Director of Clinical Compliance. If symptoms of respiratory distress are found during transit, contact EMS and stay with patient until EMS arrives.
  7. If more details are needed on the location of UNC Radiology Department, call (984) 974-1884. Map to location is provided automatically when an Online Incident Report ( is submitted.
  8. Upon arrival, explain the situation to the intake staff, provide the Radiology Order Form, explain that the bill should be forwarded to ASoD, and stay with the patient until the procedure is complete.
  9. Once the radiology technician calls the patient back to take the film, ask to see the radiograph when it is ready in order to determine the location of the foreign object.
    • If the imaging reveals the patient ingested the object and an emergent situation does not exist, the patient should be informed to contact their medical provider to determine if follow-up radiographs or treatment is needed.
    • If the imaging reveals the patient aspirated the object or an emergent situation does exist, the provider should immediately escort the patient to the emergency department and relay the diagnosis to the emergency department provider, to ensure continuity of care. Once the emergency department provider acknowledges understanding, the ASoD provider may leave the patient. It is strongly advised that the patient follow the treatment guidelines of the hospital medical provider.
  10. Within 24 hours of this occurrence, the provider should document the incident in the patient’s record and notate the following:
    • Provider’s recommendation for a medical evaluation, which included radiographs
    • Results of what patient was advised on, specifically if patient was advised to follow up with their primary care provider or required to report directly to the emergency department.
    • Preventative measures taken to avoid the swallowing or aspiration of the object.

Outside Regular Hours & Non-Emergency

Emergency Situations

If the patient is demonstrating emergency symptoms, provider will assign another individual to complete one of the following:

  1. During regular hours and on campus, appointee will call the ASOD Medical Emergency Team by dialing 7-3911 from any landline in ASOD. Assignee will need to state the location, type of emergency, and stay on the line so information can be appropriately relayed.
  2. Outside regular hours and on campus, appointee will call Orange County EMS by dialing 911. Assignee will need to remain on the phone, advise of the situation, and meet with EMS personnel at the appropriate entrance to direct them to the individual requiring assistance.

Refusal of Radiographs

If the patient refuses the radiographs, proper notation should be documented in the patient’s record, with details on the conversation, and complete the Informed Refusal Form. Scan and email a copy of the refusal to

Related Requirements

Unit Policies, Standards, and Procedures

  1. Policy for Management of Medical Emergencies
  2. Procedure Following Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure
  3. Incident Report Forms

Contact Information

Topic Title Contact
General questions Director of Clinical Compliance



Article ID: 131308
Thu 4/8/21 9:06 PM
Tue 10/31/23 1:18 PM
Effective Date
If the date on which this document became/becomes enforceable differs from the Origination or Last Revision, this attribute reflects the date on which it is/was enforcable.
05/01/2020 9:55 AM
Issuing Officer
Name of the document Issuing Officer. This is the individual whose organizational authority covers the policy scope and who is primarily responsible for the policy.
Issuing Officer Title
Title of the person who is primarily responsible for issuing this policy.
Director of Clinical Compliance
Last Review
Date on which the most recent document review was completed.
05/09/2023 2:47 PM
Last Revised
Date on which the most recent changes to this document were approved.
05/09/2023 2:47 PM
Next Review
Date on which the next document review is due.
05/09/2025 2:47 PM
Date on which the original version of this document was first made official.
05/01/2020 9:55 AM
Responsible Unit
School, Department, or other organizational unit issuing this document.
Adams School of Dentistry

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Procedure for Adams School of Dentistry on reporting incidents.
Medical emergencies in the dental office setting are an unavoidable occurrence. The UNC Adams School of Dentistry (ASOD) experiences over 115,000 outpatient visits per year, so it is foreseeable that there will be medical emergencies among those patients as well as persons who accompany them. Medical emergencies also occur among our faculty, staff, students, and visitors.