Poor dental care leads to increase in ER cases

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A hospital in Springfield has revealed that dental pain is one of the most common reasons for admission to the emergency room.

Staff at St John’s hospital say that several cases of severe tooth pain are reported each day and the problem is becoming increasingly common. Many patients end up in hospital because they can’t afford dental treatment at a private practice and they don’t have dental insurance; consequently, most people haven’t seen a dentist in years and their oral health problems have become so bad that they end up in the emergency room.

Currently, dental patients make up 7 percent of ER admissions, 10 percent of Medicaid admissions and 37 percent of uninsured admissions. The figures demonstrate the problem faced by patients without dental insurance, with rising dental costs making it impossible for many patients to get the treatment they need.

Dr Ted McMurray, from the St. John’s Emergency Trauma Center, said there was a huge problem with access to dental services in the area and the centre was consequently treating an increasing number of dental patients.

Access to dental services is a problem in Green County; however, Jordan Valley Community Health Center is helping to ease the strain. The centre’s register is made up of 90 percent Medicaid patients and offers a sliding scale system to provide those with a low income with reduced rate dental treatment. Last year, the clinic cared for 11,500 patients. The centre is working beyond capacity and resources and staff are overstretched; the demand is growing each year and dentist Laurel Pritchard said they were so busy that they could employ five more dentists.

Despite the excellent work of Jordan Valley Community Health Center, there are still hundreds of people struggling to access affordable dental care in the region and this is confirmed by the worrying number of uninsured patients ending up in emergency rooms.

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