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Emergency Dental Department Play An Important Role In Modern Dentistry

The use of emergency departments for dental care -- especially by young adults in low-income communities -- is presenting policymakers with a challenge, according to a Rutgers report which offers several remedies including expanding hours at the dentist's office.

 
"Emergency departments are poorly equipped to deal definitively with dental and oral health needs," said Kristen Lloyd, senior analyst at the Rutgers' Center for State Health Policy and lead author of the report. "Still, many people seek care in emergency departments for nontraumatic dental and dental-related conditions, possibly indicating inadequate access to dental care in the community."
 
Young adults, ages 19-34, have the highest rate of visits to emergency departments for dental pain and infections, the researchers report in the latest issue of their Facts & Findings series. The analysis focused on emergency department visits for oral care not related to trauma from 2008 to 2010 in New Jersey and in 13 low-income regions of the state with large numbers of Medicaid beneficiaries. The study aimed to identify regions where better access to dental services could reduce costs and prevent dental disease along with the long-term consequences of poor oral health.
 
"All too often emergency departments become the go-to place for treatment even though many visits could be prevented with the right outpatient care at the right time," said Joan Randell, deputy director of The Nicholson Foundation. "We hope that hospital systems and policymakers consider implementing the recommendations to strengthen the community-based dental safety net."
 
The researchers found great variation in emergency department visits for dental care across the low-income regions as well as in average annual costs for visits. For example, residents of the Camden city region visited emergency departments for oral care at nearly nine times the rate of residents in the region that includes Union City, while average annual per person costs in the latter region were about one-twelfth of the cost as in the Atlantic City area.
 
 
In recent years, the nation's emergency departments have experienced an unprecedented strain with approximately 130 million annual visits according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the number of patient visits has soared, the number of EDs nationally declined 6 percent to 4,594 between 1996 and 2009.
 
To investigate the effects of closures on surrounding communities, the authors analyzed the association between inpatient mortality rates at hospitals located near emergency departments in California that closed between 1999 and 2010. During this timeframe, 48 emergency departments were shuttered in the state.
 
The researchers found that ED closures affected nearly a quarter of admissions during the study period. Previous research has shown that patient mortality rates can increase with longer travel or wait times and crowding at emergency rooms. Furthermore, ED closures could also cause some patients to delay seeking medical care and could lead to conditions becoming less treatable.
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