Adult Dental Visits Decline As Dental Emergency Room Visits Rise

Posted on October 2, 2015

ATLANTAOct. 1, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Over the past decade more children are visiting the dentist, but dental care among adults is steadily declining. At the same time, dental emergency room visits are on the rise according to the Georgia Dental Association. During World Smile Day on Friday, Oct. 2, the association reminds Georgians to maintain a daily dental care regimen and to establish a dental home to prevent and treat oral health problems early.

Dental disease is almost entirely preventable. Left untreated, it can lead to serious health consequences such as tooth loss, bone or nerve damage or an infection that can spread to other parts of the body, which may even lead to death.

"Prevention is the key," says Georgia Dental Association President and Savannah dentist Dr. Tom Broderick. "Many easily remedied dental conditions are ignored until the point that they become a more serious and expensive dental issue. Simple steps like brushing and flossing your teeth, eating a balanced diet and seeing a dentist regularly can protect against tooth decay."

"Everyone has a stake in this issue," says Georgia Dental Association Executive Director Frank J. Capaldo. "Pain from untreated dental decay results in lost school and work hours. When people are in severe pain oftentimes they seek care in hospital emergency rooms, most of which are not well equipped to handle dental emergencies, and where the cost of treatment is far greater than a dental office visit."

In Georgia there were about 60,000 visits to Georgia emergency rooms for "non-traumatic" dental problems – oral health issues not caused by injuries. That cost more than $23 million (2007).[i] According to Capaldo, the problem is not a lack of capacity in the system. Most dentists in Georgia have the ability to see more patients. Rather, patients face barriers to getting needed care such as fear of the dentist, time off work and cost.

The Georgia Dental Association has several initiatives in place to address and help people overcome the barriers to seeing a dentist. In 2015, the association's leadership at the Capitol resulted in a $200,000 state appropriation to make it possible for more Medicaid dentists to practice in rural areas through a dental loan repayment program. In addition, association members regularly volunteer inGeorgia's free and reduced-cost dental clinics. Earlier this summer, the Georgia Dental Association and its Foundation hosted the Georgia Mission of Mercy dental clinic in Perry, Ga. Over the course of two days, more than 1,400 dentists and community volunteers saw 2,000 patients and provided $1.5 million of donated care to patients from 80 counties in Georgia.

On Oct. 2, World Smile Day (#WorldSmileDay), find your dental home. Visit the Georgia Dental Association website to locate a dentist in your community.

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