Preventing Dental Emergency Room Visits

Emergency sign

Did you know that 80% of dental-related emergency room visits are due to preventable conditions? The majority of dental related emergency room visits are due to dental decay, which is preventable with good oral care and regular visits to a dentist.1

Emergency room visits for dental problems have increased dramatically over time. In 2000, the number of patients seeking treatment for dental pain in the emergency room was 1.1 million. In 2010, this number almost doubled to 2.11 million and grew again to 2.18 million in 2012.1 Oral care problems treated in the emergency room place a strain on the health care system as these visits can add to overcrowding in the ER and increased wait times, especially for those with more urgent health issues.2

The costs of an emergency room visit are significantly higher than for a regular dental visit. In addition, most hospitals are not equipped to provide comprehensive dental care and can only provide pain relief or antibiotics, which is a temporary solution. Because of this, many patients who do not seek follow up care with a dentist often return to the emergency with the same problem.1 Untreated dental decay can lead to serious pain, infection, and could ultimately result in a more expensive treatment, such as root canal, crown, infection treatment, or even the loss of the tooth.

An option for those who struggle to afford regular dental care is to go to a dental school for treatment. There, dental students are overseen by experienced, qualified teachers and can provide more affordable care at a reduced cost, sometimes up to a third of the normal price. These schools provide excellent, well supervised care.

Oral Health Link to Overall Health

Another reason regular dental care is so important is the link between oral health and overall health. Here are some of the links oral health has to other health conditions:

  • Diabetes has been shown to be adversely affected by gum disease. In addition, diabetics are more likely to develop gum disease. Research shows that oral infections may cause blood sugar to rise and make diabetes more difficult to control.3
  • Heart disease has been linked to poor oral health. Research indicates that periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease because of the inflammation. In addition, periodontal disease can make existing heart conditions worse.3
  • Expectant mothers often experience more bleeding and swollen gums, especially during their second trimester. These changes make it easier for plaque to develop on the teeth, which causes swelling, bleeding, redness, or tenderness in the gum tissue. If left untreated, gum disease can damage gums and bone around your teeth and eventually may cause tooth loss.4 In addition, some studies have linked gum disease in the mother to premature births and/or low birth weight in babies.3
  • Certain conditions such as stroke may be linked to dental health. In fact, the bacteria present in gum diseases may contribute to your stroke risk.3

In addition, a dentist can detect signs of oral cancer during an oral health exam.

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