Thousands going to Dane County ERs for dental problems

Posted at 11:04 AM, Mar 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-25 12:33:33-04
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Dane County is seeing mixed results in its efforts to reduce reliance on people going to hospital emergency rooms for dental problems, a new report shows.
Dane County has been trying to tackle the issue of connecting patients with treatment elsewhere, for less money, since 2010, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
"Patients often present to ERs or urgent care because they feel like they have nowhere else to turn," said Dr. Philip Bain, division chief of internal medicine at SSM Health Dean Medical Group, in a news release issued by Public Health Madison & Dane County. "This is inefficient, expensive and delays definitive treatment."
Data released by the Public Health Madison & Dane County this month shows there were nearly 460 fewer dental cases in the ER and 770 fewer patients with tooth pain in urgent care centers in Madison in 2015.
The report says nearly 2,550 patients went to local emergency rooms for tooth pain in 2010, compared with 2,100 in 2015. Urgent care centers saw a greater decrease of more than 3,210 in 2010 to nearly 2,150 in 2015.
"The numbers here are both very discouraging and encouraging," David Gunderson, a Madison dentist and president of the Oral Health Coalition of Dane County, said. "They're discouraging because we still have thousands of people in Dane County alone showing up in emergency rooms and urgent care centers. Encouraging because we're making progress."
Even though dental-related ER visits decreased, costs increased. There were $2.5 million in emergency room charges for non-traumatic dental visits at Madison's three hospitals in 2015, compared with $1.6 million in 2010.
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