Benefits pros have been preaching it for years: Emergency rooms are for emergencies only. But there’s one type of emergency your employees may be visiting the ER for when they really shouldn’t – and it could be very costly.
According to new research by The Pew Center on the States, a growing number of Americans are going to the ER to treat dental problems.
Pew analyzed hospital info from 24 states, data from the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and dental care studies.
Some of its findings should be very troubling to health plan providers:
- ER visits for dental problems increased 16% from 2006 to 2009
- In Florida, 115,000 ER dental visits in 2010 racked up $88 million in charges
- 66,000 ER visits in Georgia for non-traumatic dental problems or other oral health issues cost $23 million to treat in 2007
- South Carolina ER visits in 2009 for dental-related problems increased 60% from four years earlier, and
- Also in 2009, Tennessee hospitals had more than 55,000 dental-related ER visits — five times as many as for burns.
Why is this so disturbing? At a cost of about $50 to $100 per appointment to receive preventive care at a dentist’s office, individuals could save themselves from experiencing dental emergencies, which can cost more than 10 times that to treat in the ER, explained a professor at the University of Florida’s College of Dentistry, who reviewed the report.
The reason going to the ER is so much more expensive: They are not staffed by dentists. So often times all ER docs can often do is offer pain relief and medicine for infected gums. That tends to do little to remedy the problem over the long haul, leading to return trips to the ER.
In fact, Pew found that nearly 20% of all dental-related ER visits in Minnesota were return trips.
Info: To read Pew’s full research report, click here.