Healthcare News & Insights

More patients seeking dental care in the ER

Routine dental care is driving more people to the emergency room — at a greater cost and with less efficiency.

A new report by the Pew Center on the States found that between 2006 and 2009, the number of visits to the ER for dental issues rose by 16%. And about 20% of those visits were returning patients whose earlier treatment hadn’t been successful.

Those findings were based on a review of various health care organization and federal reports during that time period.

Patients seeking routine care in the emergency department has been an ongoing issue — that dental issues are more commonly being treated there now is simply another symptom of the problem.

But treating dental care in the ER comes with an additional set of complications. Like routine medical care, dental procedures are more costly and inefficiently handled in the ER. More troubling, most ERs do not have a dentist on staff, and may not have the best equipment on hand to properly care for dental issues — a situation that leads to frustration for patients and health care workers alike.

But the trend is most likely not going away. As with the increasing number of people forced to get routine medical care at the ER, dental ER trips are bound to increase as fewer people have access to dental insurance — or simply can’t afford it, or the often significant out-of-pocket costs that come with it.

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