For many people, planning a routine visit to the dentist may not be the most fun, but it is an important step to maintaining a healthy mouth. Unfortunately, not everyone has the resources to get semiannual cleanings to protect against the need for cavity treatments, dental plaque buildup, gum disease and tooth decay. According to a recent research report released by the American Dental Association, the number of people that had to visit the emergency room due to dental problems nearly doubled within a decade in the United States. A new analysis of 2010 data from the ADA Healthy Policy Resources Center based on U.S. Census Data and Medical Expenditure Panel Survey found that 181 million Americans didn’t visit the dentist during that year. This likely plays a major role in the fact that nearly 50 percent of adults over the age of 30 suffer from some form of gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Increased ER visits from dental issues
Based on statistics from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, ER visits due to dental issues grew from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2010. This means that dental-related visits increased from 1.06 percent to 1.65 percent of all ER visits. While there are many reasons why people don’t make appointments with the dentist, one of the major issues is an individual’s lack of dental insurance. According to the study, young adults between the ages of 21 and 34 are the main demographic responsible for the increase in visits to the emergency room because many people in that age bracket don’t have access to a dental provider.
The nonprofit organization, Community Catalyst, has been urging for a mid-level position that could help improve the amount of care available to patients. Since roughly 130 million Americans don’t have access to dental insurance, dental therapists could provide similar care that nurses or physician assistants perform at a doctor’s office without a patient needing coverage. Unfortunately, many dentists oppose this new position and there are only a few states that authorize dental therapists. People in this position could provide preventive measures, but not cavity treatments that are available from licensed dentists only.