Avoid the emergency room for dental problems

March 2, 2018

Most people think chest or stomach pain, a sprain or broken bones, upper respiratory infections, cuts, back pain, skin infections or severe headaches are good reasons to visit the ER. But did you know that one of the most common reasons people end up in the ER is for dental pain? One of the main causes for ER visits is toothaches and other preventable dental pain.

Why do so many people with dental problems wind up in the ER?

Most people that seek dental ER care don’t have insurance, have problems finding a local dentist or find out that their dentist isn’t open at the time of the emergency. If they aren’t visiting a dentist regularly for preventive care, problems can develop over time. Usually it’s not until it becomes painful that care is needed. This is when patients will visit the ER with abscesses (inflamed, pus filled areas of the teeth and gums), causing major discomfort. If ER doctors are able to reach the abscess, they may drain it and prescribe antibiotics and/or pain medications.

For pain caused by tooth decay or sudden trauma to the tooth, doctors can only give medication for pain. Too many of these patients don’t follow up with a dental visit for long-term care, continued treatment and preventive care after the ER visit. This causes the cycle to continue. ERs are an expensive resource for treatment. Seeking dental care from an ER doesn’t usually solve dental problems that will result in lasting relief. Hospital ERs aren’t designed or equipped to treat toothaches and dental abscesses. Most emergency rooms aren’t staffed with dentists. And their physicians and other staff are not trained to treat most dental problems.

Find a dental home.

There’s a way to break the cycle. Find a dental home for yourself and your kids. Have your teeth checked regularly (at least once a year). Get kids to the dentist as early as possible. Dentists can see who may be at risk and manage disease before it begins. Dentists can help protect kids’ teeth with sealants and fluoride treatments that help stop decay.

Work with a dentist to treat and prevent disease. Healthy habits at home, like regular brushing and flossing and a balanced diet, can improve your chance of avoiding the emergency room and having a lifetime of good dental health.

For more information about UnitedHealthcare Community Plan, to find events near you or to get access to other health information visit: http://www.uhccommunityplan.com/wi/wi-healthplan.html.

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