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Seeking Treatment For Oral Care Problems In Emergency Rooms

Hospital emergency rooms are seeing an increase in people visiting with routine oral care problems. Patients without health insurance and those with financial barriers to dental care perpetuate this newest trend. With considerable strain on families due to the ever rising costs of the necessities of life, more people are finding themselves in hospital emergency rooms for their dental care issues.

Oral Care Problems and The Health Care System

Oral care problems are placing a considerable strain on the health care system due to the increase of people looking for dental treatment in emergency rooms instead of dental offices. This problem is not specific to South Africa. It is estimated that the number of emergency room visits for oral care problems has increased from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2010. These visits contribute to overcrowding and increased wait times for patients with urgent health conditions. It is also more costly, especially for uninsured patients: routine dental problems, such as tooth extractions, can cost nearly 10 times more in the hospital emergency room than in a dental office.

In addition to the increase in cost, there is also an increase in the use of prescription medications. Hospital emergency rooms typically do not have a dentist on staff; patients are generally prescribed antibiotics and painkillers, and are told to visit their dentist. Of course, if the patient had an oral care provider, they would not be in the emergency room to begin with. Furthermore, once the pain medications run out, the patient will be right back at square one — in the emergency room.

The Importance of Seeking a Dental Professional

People should not seek help for a toothache in an emergency room. A dental office is a more suitable option. Gaining access to both preventive care and education about dental problems is an issue for a growing number of people. The costs associated with prevention and alternative programmes will be minute in comparison with the costs associated with health problems such as heart disease, stroke and oral cancers caused by poor dental health.