Desperate People Visit Emergency Room for Dental Care



Some Floridians are doing anything possible to receive dental care. That includes going to the emergency room.

Many people in Florida who lost health coverage based on the poor economy and Medicaid patients are now going to the emergency room as a last resort. It’s the only way they can get the dental treatment they need.

The problem, however, is that the costs from taxpayers are being driven up.

There were roughly 115,000 Floridians who went to the hospital for dental care that could have been treated by a dentist for a much lower cost, according to the Florida Oral Health Coalition, which put this study together. The numbers have risen 9 percent since 2008.

Emergency rooms in the state charged $88 million for dental care in the past year, $30 million of which was for Medicaid patients. If the patients had other options, the state could have saved that much more money. If hospitals aren’t reimbursed for the cost, they raise the prices for paying patients to cover the losses.

In Broward Country, which is in south Florida, 32 percent of emergency room visits included an oral health problem.

When workers lose jobs, they lose the ability to receive dental coverage. Another issue is the low number of dentists who will accept Medicaid patients. And since poor oral health leads to poor overall health, there’s been an increase in the number of cases of heart disease, premature birth, diabetes, etc. Tooth decay is the largest problem for children, even though it can be prevented easily.

Some possible solutions include expanding the treatment that can be done by hygienists, increasing Medicaid payments so dentists have a higher incentive to take on Medicaid patients, and having more dental clinics.

The inability to put these measures into place stems from the necessity for more state tax money, which doesn’t appear to be coming.