dental instrumentsWhile many of our skyrocketing healthcare costs are due to unnecessary emergencydepartment (ED) visits, a new report by the Pew Center has found that dental visits are contributing to that crisis as more Americans are going to the ED for routine dental issues – such as a toothache, or in one case, a chipped tooth in Syracuse.  According to the Pew report, visits to the ED for preventable dental conditions jumped 16% between 2006 and 2009.

For states, the costs of emergency-room visits place added pressure on already strained budgets. Inpatient hospital treatment of Medicaid enrollee for dental problems is nearly 10 times the cost of preventive care delivered in a dentist’s office. Furthermore, since few EDs staff dentists, they offer limited dental treatment options, such as painkillers when a root canal may be required, leading to recurrent patient visits.

According to the Pew report, several factors fueled the increase in dental-related hospital visits, including a shortage of dentists in many U.S. areas and the fact that many dentists do not accept Medicaid-enrolled patients.

Physician’s Weekly wants to know… What do you think should be done to reduce the incidence of non-urgent dental visits in the ED? Should states step in and make investments to improve access to preventive dental care?