Hawaii Health Alerts: Dental Emergency Room Visits Increasing

Medically reviewed in January 2021

A growing number of people are visiting the emergency room (ER) for long overdue dental care. According to the American Dental Association, dental-related ER visits increased from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.2 million in 2012. Emergency room doctors say unendurable pain is usually what drives patients to the ER. Unfortunately, the majority of these patients don’t have dental insurance. In fact, almost two-thirds of seniors and over one-third of adults in the US reported not having dental coverage in 2012. The Affordable Care Act and most Medicare plans don’t currently offer embedded dental coverage for adults.

Dental ER visits can be expensive, even if the patient doesn’t need to be hospitalized. Aside from having little-to-no dental insurance, dentists report that a significant portion of the population ignores dental problems until they’re unbearable. Severe dental pain often occurs outside of normal business hours, which forces people to visit the ER. Emergency room physicians are able to treat dental issues with temporary care like antibiotics and pain medication, but aren’t usually able to identify and treat the cause of the problem. That means the pain returns when the treatment wears off.

There is a lot of bacteria in our mouths, but brushing and flossing daily can keep them under control. Regular dental visits can help prevent serious infection, which could become life threatening. Most dental plans include two covered cleanings per year that allow a dentist to identify and treat any potential issues before they become major problems. Seeing a dentist regularly could save you a trip to the ER, time away from work and in extreme cases, your life.

Need assistance finding a dentist? Find one in your network who can provide you with the services you need.

This content originally appeared on Well-Being Hawaii.

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