Emergency Room Visits for Dental Care Cost $1 Billion a Year

According to a new study, there are more than a million visits to the emergency room–or emergency department–every year for dental conditions. Many of the conditions could have been treated or prevented with routine dental care and oral hygiene, and patients often receive inferior care when they go to the emergency room for dental conditions.

Emergency Room Visits for Minor Conditions

According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, of the 382.8 million emergency room visits during 2008-2010, 4.05 million, about 1% were diagnosed with dental conditions. Although many of the diagnoses were fairly minor, 101 patients died in the emergency department over the three years of the study. About 85% of those who died had no health-related condition besides their dental emergency.

The reasons why people went to the emergency room included:

  • Dental caries (58%)
  • Pulp and periapical lesions (43%)
  • Gum disease or other gingival and periodontal conditions (13%)
  • Mouth cellulitis or abscess (3%)

People often had multiple conditions.

High Price for Inferior Care

The study also found that the visits were also relatively expensive for what they covered. The average visit cost $760, and the total of the visits over the three years was $2.7 billion. Patients with mouth cellulitis and periodontal disease had the highest charges. Patients were also more likely to be charged more if they had insurance, including Medicaid.

Authors of the study noted not only the immediate cost of treatment, but the likely cost of the fact that most treatment was directed only at symptoms and not at the causes. They noted that previous studies have shown that more than half of people who visit an emergency department for dental problems are just prescribed pain medication and are not given actual treatment, which means they will still have untreated dental problems that need more care later, such as a filling or root canal.

If you are developing a dental condition that you think might be serious, it’s important to see a real dentist who can help get you the right treatment. For an appointment at Ravon Knopf in Beverly Hills, please call 310-275-5325 today.

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