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Maryland Coalition Aims to Reduce ER Visits for Dental Pain

March 20, 2014

Dentists in Frederick County, Md., have a plan to reduce the number of people visiting the local hospital's emergency room for dental concerns.

"Dentists in Frederick County recognize that there is a growing national trend of ER visits related to dental pain," said Dr. Rick Rogers, who is president-elect of the state dental society. "Certainly this also is happening locally, and we're excited to have a plan in place to correct this issue."

The upward trend of people visiting emergency rooms for treatment of dental pain taxes hospitals' resources. And most hospitals are neither staffed nor equipped to provide comprehensive care and often simply prescribe antibiotics or pain medication. So in many cases, patients return to ERs for worsening problems that should be addressed by dentists.

The Maryland State Dental Association is teaming up with the Frederick Community Action Agency, the Frederick County Health Department, Frederick Memorial Hospital and members of the Frederick County Dental Society to launch a program to refer patients from hospital emergency rooms to dentists who can actually address the underlying problem, according to Dr. Rogers.

Dr. Rogers is currently recruiting dentists for the program, and hopes to have 12 general dentists, two oral surgeons, and an endodontist, who specializes in root canal therapy.

The program's catalyst was a $240,000 grant awarded to the Frederick Community Action Agency by the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission, which falls under the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The money is paid out during a three-year period, during which time the agency is charged with referring patients from the emergency room to area dentists after screening them for income eligibility and primary dental concern.

The agency also will provide transportation and interpreters if needed, according to Dr. Rogers. Frederick County is reported to have one of the largest growing Hispanic communities in the state.

Following the treatment, the Frederick Community Action Agency will collect data of the treatment and compensate the dentists at a reduced fee schedule, which is based on both the Delta PPO and Maryland Medical Assistance Fee schedules, he added.