How Dental Care in the US is mostly Emergency Care today

6359417247497518734735449.jpgHigh Cost of Dental Care is leading people to avoid regular dentist visits

Famed American author Dr. Seuss, said, “Teeth are always in style.” It is a pity that people don’t always remember that. In a society where appearance means everything, one would expect people to make sure they are not embarrassed when they smile. Yet, astoundingly, about a third of Americans do not visit a dentist even once a year.

As research shows, over 100 million Americans avoid visits to the dentist, mostly because they cannot afford it. Furthermore, in the state of Maryland, which has a population of over 6 million people, at least 20% of residents have not visited a dentist for at least five years. Recent research finds that over 19 million of America’s children have no dental insurance, which is more than double the number of kids without health insurance. Aaron Warren, Executive Director of Madison Dental initiative in Madison, Wisconsin, said of Emergency Dental care, “It’s a 24-hour, 7-day a week, easy-access place. They have to see you. When you walk into the ER, the doctor has to see you.” So would the emergency dentist in Calgary

The most likely reason for this appears to be the often-prohibitive cost of dental care. The responsibility for this situation is laid at the door of authorities who have made a clear separation between medical coverage and dental coverage and also consider dental coverage as “garnish.”

Decisionmakers appear to be giving priority to healthcare over dental care, as if one is of greater consequence than the other. Even the Affordable Care Act, which significantly increased healthcare for people across all states, does not make dental coverage a required benefit. Neither does Medicaid, which is an insurance program for the poor, include dental coverage as a required benefit. As Senator Bernie Sanders once said, “Let’s be honest, dental care in America is extremely expensive, period.”

In this backdrop, the US is finding itself in a situation that the large majority of Americans are rushing to Emergency Dental Care for issues which could have been easily sorted out in regular visit. A recent study found that over 800,000 annual ER visits could be avoided if preventable dental conditions were attended to in regular visits.  A research study by the American Dental Association (ADA) finds that one million annual dental visits which cost at least $520 million in Medicaid could be saved for other priorities if these emergency visits could be directed to private dental clinics. As the ADA calculates, such emergency visits cost the US healthcare system at least$1.6 billion, which is about $749 per visit.

Another disturbing fact emerging from these studies is that the majority of patients at dental emergency centers are relatively young people between the ages of 18 and 44.  As President of the Wisconsin Dental Association, Dr Paul Levine said, “Younger people, that age group, seem to think they’re invincible and won’t have any problems.” As if that is not bad enough, toddlers with baby teeth are also having serious dental problems, and dentists and pediatricians are recommending that the age to show a child to a dentist should be 1 and not 3.

With emergency dental care beginning to cause concern among dentists in the country, they have begun to seek out viable alternatives. Among these, an increasing number of states are allowing dentists to employ dental therapists who help out in routine dental care.  Dental therapists are to dentists what physician assistants are to doctors, and are helping communities to maintain decent lives by being able to find a job. As once patient said, “It is harder to find a job and housing if you have a missing tooth. People judge you if you have missing teeth.”

It is perhaps at such a time that people remember the penetrating words of famed Spanish writer, Miguel de Cervantes, “Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond.”

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