Oral Health Group

Study: Emergency department use for oral care

August 4, 2015
by American Dental Association

With new Medicaid dental benefits, will emergency department use for oral care decline?

According to the American Dental Association, about 8.3 million adults on Medicaid are eligible for expanded dental benefits under the Affordable Care Act. Still, many states do not provide dental coverage for these patients, who may use the emergency department for dental care. Many dentists also do not accept Medicaid. Kathryn R. Fingar of Truven Health Analytics and coauthors from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Stanford University, and the University of California, San Francisco examined 2010 county-level rates of emergency department visits for nontraumatic dental conditions among individuals with Medicaid in twenty-nine states. In urban counties, which accounted for the majority of dental emergency department visits, the authors found no significant relationship among the number of dental providers, Medicaid dental coverage, and nontraumatic dental emergency department visits. However, in rural counties, they did find a decline in emergency department use for nontraumatic dental conditions in communities with more dental providers. The authors also found that in states where Medicaid covered nonemergency dental services, emergency department use declined, although the authors noted that this difference was not significant after other factors were adjusted for. These findings suggest that simply providing expanded dental coverage to Medicaid recipients might not translate into lower rates of dental emergency department visits if access to care remains limited for low-income individuals and if local dental providers do not accept Medicaid coverage.

For more, please visit: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/34/8/1349.abstract.

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