Dental ER Visits Cost about $1 Billion a Year

Apr 16, 2014, by Dr. Becky Coats

It’s not just gum disease that leads to high medical expenses. According to new data published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, people who visit the emergency room for dental ailments cost nearly $1 billion a year.

In addition to paying for expensive visits, people who get this type of dental care actually receive inferior treatment that may result in repeated visits in the future.

Emergency Room Visits for Preventable Conditions

The study looked at the 382.8 million emergency room visits during the three year period 2008-2010. They found that a little more than 1% of the people making these visits–4.05 million–were diagnosed with dental conditions. People often had multiple conditions. The most common diagnoses were:

  • Cavities (58%)

  • Infected teeth, including periapical lesions (43%)

  • Gum disease or other gingival and periodontal conditions (13%)

  • Mouth cellulitis or abscess (3%)

Although most of the visits were of a relatively minor nation, over 100 patients died in the emergency room, and 85% of those who died had only dental problems.

High Price for Inferior Care

The study found that people who used the emergency department for dental care paid a lot and got a little. The total cost over the three years was $2.7 billion, an average of $760 per visit in 2010 dollars. People tended to be charged more if they had insurance.

The problem is that these emergency department visits rarely resulted in actual treatment for their dental condition. They noted that, according to previous studies, people who went to the emergency department for a dental problem were just prescribed a pain medication more than half the time, despite the fact that there may be untreated dental problems that may need additional treatment, such as a root canal for an infected tooth.

Don’t put off a dental problem until you feel the need to go to the emergency department. We can treat your dental problem comfortably and completely so that you won’t have to get additional treatment later. To learn more about treating your dental condition, please call 817-481-6888 for an appointment at Grapevine Dental Care, convenient to many areas of Dallas.