July 27, 2015
Contact PDA: (717) 234-5941

Dental ER Visits Continue to Increase; How to Avoid Them

Thinking your toothache isn’t that big of a deal? Over the past several years, there has been a steady increase of people finding themselves in the emergency room for dental problems. While this is an issue that’s often forgotten about, statistics show that many Americans push their oral health to the side until it’s too late and emergency care is needed.
As detailed in ADA News, “The number of dental emergency room visits in the U.S. increased from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2010, according to the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. The survey also showed dental ER visits as a percent of total ER visits increasing from 1.06 percent in 2000 to 1.65 percent in 2010—a change HPRC cites as statistically significant.”

While there are a number of contributing factors, one of the biggest reasons is that as dental coverage becomes less attainable for people, they are not getting regular dental checkups, and that leads to oral health issues getting worse over time. Dentists have long been aware of this issue, and say the key to avoiding ER visits is regular preventive treatment. 

“If people see oral health as a more important priority, they could be more likely to take advantage of dental benefits and budget dental expenses,” said Dr. Anthony Kibelbek, a Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) member dentist practicing in Coalport. “There’s no doubt that what we have seen happen with the overall economy and insurance coverage the past 10-15 years has played a part in this situation.”

There are several ways in which people can take preventative measures to ensure good oral health. It all starts with proper care at home. Brushing twice a day and flossing is key. Seek regular dental checkups to avoid complications, since visiting the ER is an expensive and only temporary solution. Dental clinics, along with community health centers and the Donated Dental Services Program are options to provide patients with dental care at a low cost. Another dental care option could be enrolling in Medicaid, which refers patients to a regular dentist and educates them on the importance of maintaining good oral health.

Medicaid coverage provides more dental care for those under 21 years old and is not the answer to current barriers to comprehensive dental care. However, it is the best option that our state government can offer at this time. The American Dental Association continues to advocate for increased coverage for adult dental care under Medicaid. 

Ultimately, patients will need some help from policy makers to improve their options for access to quality care. If you have questions about some of the options for low-cost dental care, check out www.dentallifeline.org

About the Pennsylvania Dental Association
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. For more information on PDA, visit our website at www.padental.org.