Epidemiology of Emergency Dental Care

Why Most Dental Emergencies Occur

A study was conducted in the Seattle’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center to determine what kind of emergency dental visits were made from 1982 to 1991. The epidemiology was made to be able to help hospitals know how to prepare best for dental emergencies and how to be staffed and stocked for them. 

The Findings

During the years examined, it was found that there were 1482 visits by children to the hospital’s emergency dental center. The survey revealed that as many as 60 percent of the patients had come in as a result of some dental trauma. This was usually because of a bike accident, sports, falls, and furniture. It was also discovered that more males (61.2%) needed care for trauma than females. 

Most of the visits to the dental emergency room took place between 6:00 pm and midnight. This involved 47.9 percent of the cases. The dental department in the Seattle hospital was open 24 hours each day. 

The largest percentage of the remaining patients was for infection. This involved about another 35 percent of the cases, and the rest of the emergency dental care visits were for problems such as lost fillings, severe gingivitis, losing primary teeth, orthodontic problems, herpetic stomatitis, and having a foreign object in the mouth.

The Age of the Patients

The majority of the children involved in emergency dental treatment at Seattle Hospital were five years old. Those who were treated for trauma were an average age of 66 months old, and those treated for infection were a little older – 89 months old. 

Although race was not always recorded, it did seem to make a difference. Of the 38 percent of patients where race is known (531 cases), it was discovered that non-Caucasians had a 200 percent greater likelihood of visiting for infection than Caucasians. 

The Frequency

Most of the visits to the dental emergency room took place in the late spring and summer months. They were lowest in January. The weekends were far busier than during the rest of the week. Most of these visits were for infection, taking place between 6:00 pm and midnight, and then between midnight and 6:00 am. 

Over the time period involved in the study – from 1982 to 1991, it was found that there was a definite increase between 1988 and 1991. The number of cases overall was increased by 2.1 times in 1991 over the year 1982. The total number of cases had increased by 1.6 times just between 1988 and 1991. 

One decrease that was seen during the years studied was for trauma. When comparing the years 1982-1987 to 1988-1991, there was a decrease in the cases of trauma, going from 503 cases (69.5%) to 381 (56.5%). 

Adult Emergency Visits

Recent statistics reveal that the use of emergency departments (ED) for dental services is increasing. Females between the ages of 18 to 44 make the highest use of the ED than other groups. Also, this age group in general (male and female) makes the highest number of dental-related ED visits. In most cases, patients are treated and released, and only about four percent are hospitalized. 

About Emergency Dental Visits

Other recent studies have revealed that many patients going to an emergency department at a hospital did not have a true dental emergency. After going through triage and being evaluated for urgency, many of them were found to not require immediate dental care. 

It seems that a good number of these people were either on Medicaid or had no insurance, and felt that they would have a greater likelihood of being treated than at a regular dentist’s office. Another reason this is believed is that they usually came to the emergency department after business hours.

Why Emergency Dental Services Will Cost More

Emergency dental services are going to cost you more than if you went to a dentist in the first place. The first reason this is true is that it costs a lot of money to go to a hospital’s ED. A second reason that it will cost more is that many emergency departments do not have a dentist on staff. 

This means that you are not apt to get the treatment you need. Instead, you can only expect that the problem may be stabilized only and the pain relieved temporarily. But in the morning, you may still need to see a dentist for treatment. This means that you are paying for the ED (which is high) and for the dental services you need. If you went to the dentist in the first place, you would have avoided the cost of the ED.

Preventive dentistry with regular dental visits will help you keep dental costs lower because problems are discovered and treated when they are less expensive. Dentists can also provide children with fluoride treatments and sealants to help prevent cavities – a major reason for ED visits today. The best way to prevent a dental accident or emergency is to get regular dental visits. It will also help to eat a healthy diet – which will strengthen your teeth. 

Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, MS, MBA, FDSRCS, a Board Certified Periodontist, is an emergency dentist that has an emergency dental clinic. Urgent dental care is provided in the office. He also provides a wide range of preventive and regular dental care for patients of all ages in his Carrollton, Grapevine, Cedar Hill, and Grapevine, TX offices. Most dental insurance plans are accepted. For a consultation or for more information about emergency dental treatment, you can contact his office today at 469-470-2546