Many Patients Still Visiting ER for Dental Care

Many Patients Still Visiting ER for Dental Care

At Sonora Dentist, Dr. Paul Berger, your friendly dentist in Sonora, CA, offers outstanding dental care to all of his patients. Unfortunately, millions of Americans who don’t have access to dental care often delay seeking treatment until an oral health issues becomes so severe they’re forced to seek emergency care.

Over 2 percent of all emergency department visits are now due to non-traumatic dental conditions, according to researchers in a joint study at Truven Health Analytics, the University of California-San Francisco and Stanford University.

Access Still a Problem

While the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has provided millions of low-income Americans access to health insurance, multiple states don’t offer dental care coverage to adults on Medicaid programs. Paying for dental insurance on the private market or paying out-of-pocket for dental treatment is cost-prohibitive to many patients on Medicaid, many of whom live beneath the federal poverty line. However, to get the care they require, many low-income patients turn to the emergency room.

Since federal law requires that emergency rooms treat any patient in need of care, low-income individuals without dental insurance know they can receive oral health care by showing up at their local ER. Unfortunately, dental care received in an emergency room can cost significantly more than when done in a dentist’s office. This can result in emergency care dental patients receiving bills for thousands of dollars they cannot hope to repay.

Many of these types of patients either fall behind on making payments or just neglect to pay at all. This proves enormously expensive, and makes emergency care more expensive for everybody as hospitals seek a way to recoup the money they have lost.

Researchers involved with the study hope that an expansion of Medicaid dental coverage would help reduce the need for many low-income families from using the emergency room for dental care and for problems that could have been easily addressed early on with access to regular dental checkups and cleanings.

Trouble Finding Dental Care

From 2001 to 2008, emergency room visits for routine dental treatments like gingivitis, tooth pain and cavities increased by 41 percent in the U.S., while emergency room visits for all conditions rose by only 13 percent during the same period of time, according to the study.

This disparity was due in part to a lack of dental coverage under Medicaid in some parts of the country, the shortage of dental providers in rural communities and the lack of dentists in urban areas willing to accept new patients

Previous studies have shown that many dentists are reluctant or refuse to accept Medicaid. This makes it difficult for patients with Medicaid dental insurance to receive care in an office environment. However, researchers are hopeful that Medicaid expansion to include dental care would make the process of accepting Medicaid easier for dentists, thereby increasing the number of oral health care providers willing to offer care to low-income patients.

At Sonora Dentist, we happily offer care to patients both with and without insurance. To find out more about how you can schedule an appointment with Sonora dentist Dr. Paul Berger call our office today!

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