Dental-related ER visits are largely preventable

April 21st, 2014

Dental academic software can help university clinics improve care and communication, but what happens when patients stop coming to dentists with their oral health problems? According to a CNN opinion piece written by Dr. Charles Norman, president of the American Dental Association, thousands of people without access to a dentist are doing just that by seeking out dental care in emergency care centers, which are not often equipped with the staff and tools necessary to administer proper treatment.

The problem
Norman claims this is a growing epidemic. According to the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.1 million people cited dental pain as the reason for their ER visit in 2010, double the figures from 2000. At the Moses Cone Health Center, based in North Carolina, Norman writes that 10 percent of the facility's ER cases are directly related to dental issues.

It's not only that patients are putting themselves at greater risk for sub-standard care, but the issues initially bringing them into emergency care centers are largely preventable. The article confirmed  that a staggering 80 percent of these ER cases were for common conditions like abscesses and cavities. It may be easy to blame these visits on a lack of education, as most patients were identified as adults, but the sad reality is that more than half of low-income adults claim they haven't had  a dentist appointment in more than a year.

When the Affordable Care Act took effect late last year, many hoped it would provide aid for low-income earners, which it did. However, the legislation largely ignores adult dental care, Norman said.

The solution
With patients crowding ERs with serious  oral health problems, every stakeholder is suffering. Hospitals are devoting staff and resources they don't have to treat patients who should be somewhere else. Patients are suffering from poor dental health, as well as education. The dental industry as a whole is suffering from a growing neglect for oral hygiene and care.

The solution is prevention through communication. In Greensboro, Norman writes that the Moses Cone Health Center has created a blueprint for how to handle the problem. Hospital administrators and physicians are now working to connect ER patients suffering from dental health issues with local dentists and clinics, and Norman believes this method could be the way to improve overall dental care.

Dental school software can give university clinics the infrastructure needed to build relationships with both patients and partner facilities. Staff can use built-in applications to share individual treatment histories, test results and a variety of other related documents with patients. Dentists can also use the software to seamlessly exchange information between facilities.

Leveraging the many advantages dental software offers, oral care professionals can feel confident in their ability to administer the highest quality of care with the greatest efficiency.

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