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Report: Dentists can help reduce ER visits for nontraumatic dental issues

February 15, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Collaboration is key to decreasing nontraumatic dental visits to the emergency department, according to a report outlining best practices for emergency department referral programs for dental conditions.

By working together, the dental community, policy makers, educators and community partners can make a significant impact upon reducing ER visits for nontraumatic dental conditions, according to the report.

The report, developed with input from the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations and released in December by the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors, describes public health strategies and their effectiveness, and uses practice examples to illustrate successful examples of emergency department referral programs in the U.S.

“The dental community cannot be expected to accomplish reductions in emergency department visits for nontraumatic dental conditions by itself, but must collaborate with multiple identified partners to address the determinants of oral health and implement successful interventions to prevent dental disease, mitigate its impact and increase access to affordable, quality dental care,” the report states.

As the U.S. sees increased use of the emergency department for dental care — especially by low-income and uninsured adults — it is important to find efficient and cost-effective programs and strategies to help integrate “current and potential emergency department users into primary care settings,” the report states.

The number of patients seeking treatment for dental pain in emergency rooms has increased from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2010, according to the ADA.

The American Dental Association’s Action for Dental Health campaign, a national movement launched to address the dental health crisis in the U.S., is listed as an “authoritative resource” in the report for guidelines and recommendations on ER referral programs. The ADA has published tips for starting ER referral programs in one’s own community. Visit for more information.

“The value of this report is the opportunity for communities to work with local dentists and design the most effective program for their underserved populations,” said Dr. Jane Grover, who helped develop the report and is director of the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations. “Another advantage of this report is the identification of issues that dentists can share with legislators to discuss oral health program support needs and overall cost savings by connecting people with the right care at the right time.”

To read the full report, Best Practice Approaches for State and Community Oral Health Programs, which was supported by a grant from the DentaQuest Foundation, visit and look under the “Announcements, Publications & Documents” tab on the homepage.