More People Going to ER for ... Toothaches

Possibly because states are cutting Medicaid benefits: NPR
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 29, 2012 5:41 PM CST
More People Going to ER for ... Toothaches

More and more people are showing up to the emergency room to deal with teeth problems. According to a new report, more than 800,000 people in 2009 alone bolted straight to the ER with dental troubles such as toothaches that could have been avoided with proper care. Part of the problem may stem from states cutting Medicaid dental benefits, forcing low-income people to forego dentists, reports NPR. It's a bad cycle, given that ERs can provide quick fixes but not the kind of comprehensive care that prevents problems in the first place.

"People showing up at emergency rooms for dental is really your sign that your system is breaking down," says the director of the Pew Center's Children's Dental Campaign. "It's just not serving enough people. This is your symptom of a system in crisis." The report lists several strategies for fixing the problem, including raising the reimbursement rates for low-income patients and hiring more "dental therapists," the equivalent of nurse practitioners. The American Dental Association opposes the latter idea. (More emergency room stories.)

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