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ERs Treating More Patients with Dental Problems than Ever

Posted on October 22, 2013 by Dr. Mal Braverman

Between the year 2000 and 2010, the number of dental emergency room visits in America nearly doubled, from 1.1 million to 2.1 million, according to the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. The total percentage increase was substantial, rising from 1.06 to 1.65 percent. Numbers like those are considered statistically significant, which is why professional associations like the ADA want to know what’s behind them. What have they found?

According to the ADA Health Policy Resources Center, the increase is being driven by young people who no longer receive dental insurance through their employers. As a result, they have to rush to the ER instead of to a dentist when they have a dental emergency. Because it is the law, these patients must receive treatment, but emergency rooms doctors are not dentists. They were trained to treat serious bodily injuries, not chipped or missing teeth. Furthermore, this trend puts even more pressure on an already strained health care system.

There is no simple solution to this modern problem except to encourage people, especially younger ones, to obtain dental insurance. Even if they have to pay for it out of pocket, studies have shown that it will be much cheaper in the long run.

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