Dental visits to emergency unwarranted

Dental conditions are one of three causes of avoidable US emergency visits, a recent study has found.

According to research published last month in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 3.5 per cent of all emergency visits analysed were ‘avoidable. Of these, the top three discharge diagnoses were dental conditions (along with alcohol and mood disorders such as anxiety or depression).

A significant find since ‘avoidable’ emergency department visits can impact the cost of health insurance, the study suggests that ‘avoidable’ emergency department visits related to dentistry could be reduced by increasing access to dental health facilities.

The study analysed data from 424 million visits made to emergency departments in the USA by patients aged 18 to 64 between 2005 and 2011. It defined ‘avoidable’ as those cases where there was no requirement of diagnostic or screening services, procedures, or medications and the patients were discharged home.

It found that 3.9 per cent of all avoidable visits related to disorders to the teeth and jaw.

It further found that 4.9 per cent of all tooth and jaw-related visits were avoidable—although the vast majority of diagnoses in this area were not deemed avoidable so it’s advisable that all patients with these conditions attend the emergency department.

Overall though, the findings suggest policy initiatives could alleviate pressure on emergency departments by addressing gaps in the provision of dental health care in order to treat this group of emergency department visitors at a lower cost elsewhere.

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1 Comment

  1. Another possibility would be to use the local community dental clinics and have an out of hour rotation of local dentists to fill this after hours demand. I remember when I moved to a country town [Armidale NSW] in my early days of dentistry all the dentists would operate out of the dental clinic [on a rotation basis] at the local hospital to help the local community. This was in the days of mobile phones being the size of Bricks…..;-)

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