More Americans Visiting ER for Dental Care

Dental care is a real issue for seniors. Many have difficulty securing affordable dental care and few dentists specialize in caring for seniors. This article discusses a national trend of more and more people needing dental care. 


More Americans are visiting the emergency room because of toothaches and other routine dental problems – at 10 times the cost of preventative care and with far fewer treatment options than a dentist’s office, according to a new report out today.

Many of these preventative dental issues went untreated because of a “failure by states to ensure that disadvantaged people have access to routine preventive care” and a shortage of dentists, especially those treating Medicaid patients, according to the report [PDF], released by the Pew Center on the States. The figures are drawn from government data, hospital information from 24 states and dental research.

And in a down economy, experts say, dental care for disadvantaged individuals may take a back seat to other economic needs.

Between 2006 and 2009, the number of ER visits for dental problems rose by 16 percent, a trend the study suggests is continuing. And because ERs are often not staffed by dentists, nearly 20 percent of all ER dental trips are return patients whose problems persisted.

“If people are showing up in the ER for dental care, then we’ve got big holes in the delivery of care,” Shelly Gehshan, the director of Pew’s children’s dental campaign, told the Associated Press. “It’s the wrong service, in the wrong setting, at the wrong time.”


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