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Troubling Stats on ER Visits for Dental Care

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  • That increase over 9 years represented more than 61,000 hospitaliz ations.
  • The average stay was 3 days.
  • 66 of the patients died.


I didn't learn about this study by reading JOE, however, but from the New York Times. In the climate of controversy surrounding impending Obamacare  mandates and access to health care in general, the New York Times coverage isn't surprising. It also, of course, lent some balance and lay perspective on the findings.

Dr. Mark Wong, chairman of oral surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, was quoted in the article, commenting, ?To call this an epidemic of dental infections we are seeing in major hospital environments and in our emergency rooms ? it?s not an overstatement. People put it off until they find their face all swollen or they can?t breathe, and they run to the hospital. That?s when we have these emergent conditions."

Also interviewed for the article was Dr. Gary R. Hartwell, president of the American Association of Endodontists, who said, ?It?s better to have it treated when it?s treatable than to wait until it gets out of hand and is possibly life-threatening,? said. The increase in hospitalizations is part of a sea change in dental care, and it?s reached a point unless something?s bothering them or they?ve got pain, people say, ?I?m just not going to go to the dentist.? ?

Dr. Bruce Dye, a dental epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, cautioned against saying the study findings necessarily signal access to care issues. He noted that the the study did not address whether patients could afford dental care or whether some may have ended up at the emergency room for complications following endodontic treatment.

So while we're still left of come to our own conclusions, we can thank NYT for bringing us all sides.


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