Spending on Emergency Care Due to Nontraumatic Dental Conditions in the United States

As the only possible source of oral healthcare for those who have no dental insurance coverage, emergency departments are increasingly used to address nonurgent oral health problems in the United States. In an article published online on June 23, 2022, in the Journal of the American Dental Association, Santa Fe Group member, Dr. Ira B. Lamster, and colleagues report the findings of their study evaluating the costs of ED visits for nontraumatic dental conditions and quantifying changes in spending and its drivers. During the study period (1996 through 2016), ED visits for nontraumatic dental care were found to have tripled. This increase was seen primarily in working-age adults and was paid via the public sector.

The authors note that evidence supports that most ED dental visits could be diverted to nonurgent—and more effective—oral healthcare settings, and they offer that possible solutions include strengthening the oral healthcare safety net, especially for vulnerable populations.

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