MYTH: People with dental problems can always just go to the emergency room.
FACT: Emergency departments are not equipped to treat dental problems and typically provide just temporary pain relief.
Most emergency rooms (ERs) are not equipped to evaluate, diagnose, and treat non-traumatic dental conditions (NTDCs) – dental issues that generally would not require care in the ER. In most cases, trips to the ER for dental problems will result in management of pain and infection with antibiotics or pain medicine providing only temporary relief instead of addressing the cause of a dental problem. Additionally, these trips are costly to the patients, state Medicaid programs, taxpayers, and the overall health system.
In 2021, there were approximately 120,000 ER visits and hospital admissions for non-traumatic dental issues in Florida. Hospitals billed approximately $550 million for these visits for conditions which were largely preventable. In fact, research shows that 79% of ER visits for NTDCs could be addressed in a dental office. In 2020, Florida has the highest average charge for ER NTDC visits for children. The reality is that taxpayers are on the line for all of these charges which translate into higher insurance premiums, higher hospital billing fees, and higher taxes.
The use of emergency rooms for non-traumatic dental conditions is a poor use of resources with little to no relief because it doesn’t eliminate the need to see a dental professional. Patients would be better served in a regular dental office or a clinic where they can receive proper dental care at a more affordable price compared to the ER.