People sometimes have accidents or a tooth suddenly starts hurting. It can feel like these unexpected events always happen after hours or on weekends. Many try to wait until Monday to see their dentist but the pain just hurts too much.
Can you go to a different dentist for an emergency? Yes, you can find an emergency dentist if you own dentist's office is closed. There are lots of "big box" dental groups that offer emergency care for non-patients as well. However, we set up our practice where seeing someone else is unnecessary.
Dentists across the country take emergency care seriously. The only option for dental patients in some areas with limited emergency dental access is to go the emergency room at the local hospital.
Here are some facts to consider:
- More than 2 million dental-related visits went through hospital emergency rooms in 2018. The cost of emergency room dental visits in 2017 was more than $2 billion in the U.S.
- 2% of ann annual emergency room visits in the U.S. are dental patients.
- Most of those going to the ER for dental issues were blacks between 18 and 44 years old and living in low-income areas.
- Nearly 95% of all dental-related emergency room visits were treated and released.
- The average cost of a dental patient's care in an emergency room visit is $1,843 per visit.
- The cost of treating these same dental issues in a dental office would be between $90 and $200.
According to data, emergency room dental visits fell mostly into three areas. Those are the loss of teeth, pulp and periapical diseases (gum disease, infection) and dental caries. The most common were the gum diseases and infections, accounting for 85% of dental ER visits.
Loss of teeth could be either to decay that suddenly creates pain or a traumatic accident. Some accidents, like car accidents, will end up in the emergency room anyway because dental issues aren't the only problem and likely aren't the primary health concern.
Yet, if you look at the data, accidents make up few dental problems being admitted to the emergency room. Most of what emergency doctors see in dental issues coming into the emergency room are preventable if people saw a dentist regularly.
The problem hasn't gone unnoticed by the dental industry. There are 191,497 dental offices across the U.S. in 2022. Data shows that most dentists have at least one patient a year that requires emergency care.
That became an issue during the pandemic when emergency rooms were in high use. That led to changes in the law where dental patients could be diverted by emergency room officials to partnering dental offices rather than being admitted to the emergency room.
Diversion to a dental office is some the American Dental Association (ADA) backs. It states taht 79% of all those dental patients going to emergency rooms could find equal or better treatment by being diverted to a dental office.
A reason for that is obvious. Hospital emergency rooms aren't designed to do dental procedures. The doctors may do an x-ray but will likely offer a pain prescription and send you home with possibly a referral to a partner dentist.
Emergency dentists can not only identify the problem but, depending on the situation, fix it. In most cases, they can offer a temporary fix along with pain medicine until you can come in for a follow-up appointment to permanently fix the problem.
Another related problem is that hospitals have a challenging time collecting fees from those coming to the emergency room with dental pain. Studies should that collection of emergency room doctor fees for dental care totals only around 9.8% and only 16% of hospital fees were able to be collected.
However, those going to a dentist for an emergency care issue are generally covered by their dental insurance. There may be a co-payment but the insurance company pays for most of the dental work in emergencies. As noted earlier, the cost is going to be cheaper than an hospital emergency room visit anway.
Talk to Your Dentist Before an Emergency
One way to make an unexpected dental emergency easier is to talk to your dentist about options before there is a problem. A lot of dentists will have an on-call alternative if they don't provide emergency dental care.
Some smaller practices will cover for each other if one is out of town or on vacation. Your dentist can provide you with the name and phone number of the dentist that they partner with to handle each others' patients during these times.
There are also non-hospital emergency doctor's offices that could provide you with treatment rather than going to the emergency room. Many insurance policies will partially cover those with a reasonable co-pay.
Come See Us
You don't have to be a regular patient to use our emergency dental services. We can provide standard care any day, any time, and are open even on holidays. Once you've had our emergency services, it would serve you will become a regular patient because you will likely need follow-up care.
A better idea is to come to see us for a routine appointment now so that we will have all your records available if there is ever an emergency. After all, it's good to see a dentist that already has an emergency dental service. It makes it easier when something unexpected happens because you'll know where to go.