Utilization of Emergency Departments for Non-Traumatic Dental Care in Illinois – 2010 to 2014 Program Brief

Public health attention to oral health care remains inadequate as evidenced by prevalence of dental caries and periodontal disease in general and especially in low-income communities. These common oral infections are almost completely preventable with education, effective self-care and timely access to professional oral health intervention. The Oral Health Forum works with the public health system, key oral health care providers and community leaders to coordinate, expand, and improve existing oral health resources in health promotion, prevention and treatment.

Nationally and in Illinois, support for adequate access to basic dental care through publically funded programs is unstable and based on changing political, social and financial interest. In addition, when states are fiscally challenged, they try to save expenditures by cutting non-mandated programs. This has been the case with the Medicaid adult oral benefit in Illinois.

When obtaining regular dental services in community clinics become challenging, people seek care through the emergency departments (EDs), a place where individuals can obtain access and relief 24 hours a day. However, oral health care services through EDs are more expensive, and in many cases less able to provide definitive care for the presenting oral health problem. The end result is that many individuals may return to the ED leading to overcrowding in the EDs, delay in patient care and adding cost to the health care system.

Utilization of Emergency Departments for Non-Traumatic Dental Care in Illinois – 2010 to 2014