Dental Cases Overwhelming ERs in Missouri

A recent report by the Health Commission in Springfield and Green Counties of Missouri made Show Me State headlines last week. The Commission found that dental pain is one of the most common reasons that people visit the emergency room. Local experts explained that this is an access problem, and emphasized that oral health is critically linked to overall health.

The study found that for patients 20 to 39 years old, dental cases make up more than 7 percent of all ER visits in Greene County. They make up 10 percent of all Medicaid visits, and 37 percent of all uninsured visits.

Although the ER can provide temporary relief, St. John’s Emergency Trauma Center Medical Director Ted McMurray stressed that they cannot treat the root of the problem.”A lot of patients who come in with dental needs have really generalized dental disease. It’s not just a tooth that’s the problem,” McMurry said.

These concerns are not isolated to Missouri. As Massachusetts nears the end of its first month of drastic cuts to the MassHealth adult dental program, advocates and health care providers expect to see the rates of dental visits to ERs similarly increase in the Commonwealth. If we want to ensure that Massachusetts can effectively address dental disease, we must speak up to make sure that all residents have access to care outside of our emergency rooms. For more information about getting involved, please visit
-Christine Keeves

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