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Dean George is the Marketing Specialist and Content Creator for Dental Insurance
Store and its social media channels. He is a regular contributor to Agent Straight Talk, the
only consumer blog explaining the ins, outs and in-betweens of dental insurance and
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Emergency room dental visits are rising

Mar 02, 2012

I first heard about people going to emergency rooms for preventable dental problems on the drive to work. Amazed, I wondered why anyone would go to an emergency room when those facilities aren’t really set up to deal with dental issues.

As we all know, emergency rooms, or ER’s, routinely handle broken limbs, heart attacks, diabetic issues, dehydration, gunshot wounds, stabbings and the occasional freak injury. At least that’s what I always believed emergency rooms were about, didn’t you?

Once I got to work, I found a variety of news stories based on the same study that had analyzed hospital data in 24 states. The Pew Center on the States had found that emergency room visits for dental problems increased 16 percent from 2006 to 2009. In South Carolina, for example, ER visits for dental reasons increased as much as 60 percent in 2009. In 2010 Florida paid more than $88 million for 115,000 people to visit ER’s for dental treatment.

If I did the algebra on that story problem, both of us would have headaches.

A few of the news reports also noted that besides the increase of visitors packing emergency rooms for non-emergency dental issues, what limited treatments the emergency rooms could provide (pain and infection relief) were ten times more expensive than a regular dentist office.

Okay, now I was more than a little curious and here’s what I found: Analysts attribute much of the increase to a rise in people on Medicaid and a shortage of dentists, particularly those that treat Medicaid patients. In 2010, Oregon dental visits by Medicaid patients jumped 31 percent from 2008. Florida saw an increase of 40 percent in Medicaid patients seeking ER treatment for oral issues from 2008 to 2010.

Revealing fact: many ER dental visits involve the same patients returning for additional treatment.  For example, in Minnesota nearly 20 percent of all dental-related ER visits are return visits.

So why the repeat visits? Are emergency rooms giving away free whitening kits? After learning my mother was charged $145.39 for two self-administered aspirin during an emergency room visit, I doubt it.

Analysts believe many of those returning to the ER a second time or more do so because they cannot afford or find follow-up treatment. 

Let’s face it, money is tight and with gas at $3.85 a gallon and going higher, family budgets will be stretched even tighter. But you know, I remember my grandmother telling me, “Take care of your teeth and eyes Dean, you won’t be growing more.” Despite impressive medical and technological advances since then, grandma’s observation is still right.

The good news is we offer plans for all kinds of budgets and circumstances. Our plans cover more dental procedures than an emergency room can and no waiting periods on preventive services. In some areas of the country we have plans starting as low as $7 a month for an individual plus a $20 application fee.

But regardless of your personal financial situation, if you are feeling pain in your mouth or any kind of oral discomfort, get thee to qualified medical personnel forthwith.  After all, what grandma said about eyes and teeth apply to mouths, too!

Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk. Remember to smile because when you smile, it confuses approaching frowns.  Email me with topics you’d like to see in our blog

Find me on Twitter at Twitter@ToothTeller

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Copyright 2012, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC

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