Michigan: Emergency department visits for dental pain decreased by 72%
In Calhoun County, a unique partnership between local dentists, community leaders and low-income residents transformed access to dental care. Patients who demonstrate financial need are referred to volunteer dentists from several sources, including hospital emergency departments. Volunteer dentists provide treatment to the patients in their own offices. As payment, patients provide community service to local nonprofit organizations.
- Emergency department visits for dental pain decreased by 72% over 5 years and repeat visits have been nearly eliminated.
- One local hospital saved $6 million in 4.5 years.
- More than 43,000 hours of volunteer service were contributed to the community.
- More than 3,000 patients received free care.
Maine: Up to 70% reduction in emergency department visits for dental pain in some hospitals
In Maine, a simple model to use the dental workforce more efficiently got big results. Every patient who came to the emergency department with dental pain received one prescription for painkillers and antibiotics and a referral to a local clinic or oral surgeon. The goal: to eliminate visits to the emergency department for the same problem.
Program organizers report that emergency department visits for dental pain and infection at some participating hospitals dropped by as much as 70 percent, with the potential to save the state millions in Medicaid dollars.
The pilot program, which began with 11 hospitals, was expected to expand across the state.
Washington state: dentistry and medicine join forces to treat the uninsured
Swedish Medical Center in Seattle experienced an increase in emergency department visits for dental pain following severe cuts in adult dental Medicaid. Working with state and local dental societies, the hospital was able to reduce preventable visits to the emergency department by providing complex tooth extractions on-site to patients who were unable to receive care through the dental safety net. Volunteer dentists are recruited by the local dental society.
- The program was recognized by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a best practice for referring dental patients from the ED.
- 380 patients were treated by more than 30 volunteer dentists in the first year.
- An estimated 1,000 patients were seen by 60 volunteer dentists in the second year.
Virginia: An in-hospital dental clinic significantly improves patient care
A pilot program to refer patients with dental pain from the emergency department to an urgent dental care clinic located in the hospital saw positive outcomes:
- Dental-related issues managed by the ED decreased by 52%.
- Dental patients with repeat visits to the ED dropped by 66%.