Dental ER visits have doubled since 2000. An analysis of federal data by the American Dental Association reported a total of 2.2 million dental health related emergency room visits. That’s one visit every fifteen seconds.
In fact, patients with private insurance plans are among the highest group to visit the emergency room for a dental abscess, reports a study conducted by the Journal of Endodontics. Uninsured patients report the lowest rates of hospitalization for the same condition.
Emergency dental visits can cost more than three times the price of an average dental visit, with a price tag on the US healthcare system of $1.6 billion annually.
“Many patients may wait to see a dentist, then seek emergency treatment when they develop an aggravated condition, unfortunately delaying care can have serious impacts on overall health,” says Leslie Renee Townsend, DDS-Regional Dental Director of Jefferson Dental Clinics.
While healthcare spending has risen, annual dental care spending has leveled off. Adversely, tooth decay and gum disease rates remain high, albeit highly preventable in most cases.
“It is not safe to assume that your teeth are healthy because you do not feel pain. It’s important to have your teeth checked and cleaned regularly,” says Dr. Townsend.
Skipping out on dental care doesn’t cut corners, it can cost lives. Latinos experience high rates of periodontal disease, much of which will go undiagnosed and untreated without regular dental care. In recent years, deaths from poor oral health have attracted national news attention. In 2014 a Cincinnati man passed away from a bacterial infection originating from an abscessed tooth that spread to his brain.
“We have many patients who will come in to the office in so much pain that they just want the tooth pulled; we see many cases where the tooth could have been salvaged had the patient sought treatment sooner,” says Dr. Townsend.
With the end of the year approaching quickly, it may be time for your next dental appointment.
Most dental benefits cover two cleanings per year, and offer deep discounts on treatment. Many dental offices offer extended holiday and end-of-the-year hours, and even flexible financing to help quell the burden of paying upfront.
“Bottom-line rule: don’t wait. You should be avidly taking care of your oral health at home, but professional examination is very important for diagnosing a range of health conditions,” says Dr. Townsend.