Emergency Department Dental Care Continues to Increase Other Costs

More and more people are visiting emergency medical departments for dental care, based on the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy. The problem is particularly prevalent in low-income communities.

The problems come from the fact that many people have no option but to visit the emergency room after experiencing intense dental pain. But many emergency departments don’t have the ability or the equipment to handle such situations.

These emergency dental visits happen most frequently among adults age 19 to 34, according to the most recent issue of the Facts & Findings series. The information was based on trauma in New Jersey from 2008 through 2010 in 13 selected low-income areas with a high number of Medicaid beneficiaries.

The goal of the study was to pinpoint areas where access to better dental care could lower costs while also thwarting long-term effects of poor oral health.

The research team determined there was a major disparity in emergency department visits for dental care in low-income areas, in addition to difference in the average annual cost for a dental visit. Residents in the Camden region went to the emergency room nine times as often as people that live in the Union City region. The costs of these visits in the Union City region were only one-twelfth of those costs in the Atlantic City region.

It’s conceivable that dental insurance would improve access to dental care but there is nothing in the works as far as that is concerned. New Jersey has decided to increase the coverage in its Medicaid program but oral care is not deemed an essential health benefit, according to the Affordable Care Act.

There are a few ways to possibly combat this issue, such as increasing off-hour and weekend access to dental care in certain communities. There’s also the idea to add emergency department diversion programs. Most importantly, however, would be to increase knowledge and awareness about the importance of dental health and visiting a dental care facility instead of an emergency medical department.