Dental care visits to ER skyrocket over last decadeAlthough the news is inundated with information about the medical healthcare crisis, medical experts say there is one crisis no one is talking about. According to medical experts, there are thousands of people who come to emergency rooms every year who are in desperate need of dental health care. Unfortunately, emergency rooms are not able to provide proper emergency care to these patients.
According to a recent CNN report, one local hospital in North Carolina did a survey and determined that up to 10% of emergency room visits were related to dental health care rather than other types of medical emergencies.
The problem seems to be on the rise throughout the United States. In fact, according to a survey by the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care group, there are approximately 2.1 million people who came to the ER with dental pain in 2010, and this number was double the amount from just a decade earlier.
Most ER visits for dental care could have been prevented
The good news is many emergency visits are preventable; the bad news is people who resort to the ER do not generally have affordable access to preventative care. Medical emergency services cost our country over $2 billion each year, and many of the ER dental visits (an estimated 80%) could have been prevented with proper dental care.
Why are people failing to get proper dental care? Cost. Its not unusual for dental plans to be very expensive; if they are offered at all. Lower income Americans simply choose to do without dental care, fail to see a dentist every year, do not get proper cleanings and examinations, and end up at the ER when a problem strikes.
What does the ER offer for dental care?
But what happens when patients end up in the ER for dental care? Very little. There are no dentists on duty, and the staff is not trained to diagnose and treat dental problems. Patients may be given medications and antibiotics but the underlying problems are not solved.
What about the Affordable Care Act? Dont get too excited. The new law does not offer any type of comprehensive dental care for Americans, even though dental care is important to health.
Whats the solution?
Prevention is key for dental health. Medical experts suggest our goal should be to find new and creative solutions to help patients with dental issues who do not have adequate dental coverage. Some hospitals have started tackling the problem by targeting the issue at the community level.
According to CNN, Greensboro's Moses Cone Health Center has one such program. Recognizing that dental emergencies are better handled in a dental office, Moses Cone created a program to refer these patients to staff dentists. The hospital covers the cost of care if the patient is uninsured.
The benefit for the hospital is they are able to relieve the strain on the ER and the patients get the dental care they desperately need. Other communities have started other types of referral programs. Still others have created an in-house dental clinic that offers screenings and preventive care, with local dentists providing treatments such as fillings and extractions at substantially reduced fees.