Emergency Room Dental Visits on the Rise…Costly Health Care Failure

Tuesday, March 06, 2012
With no available insurance to defray the cost of going to the dentist, many Americans have been forced to visit hospital emergency rooms for critical dental care.
 
According to a new report by the Pew Center on the States, there were 830,590 ER visits by Americans in 2009, representing a 16% increase from 2006.
 
“Dental-related hospital visits are fueled by the difficulty that disadvantaged people have getting regular preventive care from dentists and other types of providers,” states the Pew report. Because most emergency rooms are not staffed by dentists, the care given to patients generally only deals with their immediate discomfort and does not solve their dental problems.
 
Three years ago, 56% of children enrolled in Medicaid received no dental care, even for a routine exam. This leads to more expensive problems down the road. The Pew Center recommends, for example, that state health dollars be spent on applying clear plastic dental sealants on children’s molars, which would prevent 60% of decay at one-third the cost of filling cavities.
 
About 47 million Americans live in areas that the federal government says have a shortage of dentists, and a large number of dentists do not accept Medicaid patients.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More

A Costly Dental Destination (Pew Children’s Dental Campaign) (pdf) 

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