Adult Use of Emergency Departments for Non-Traumatic Dental Conditions: Spotlight on Minnesota

Published 01/09/2023

Millions of adults in the US lack access to routine dental care and resort to visiting hospital emergency departments (EDs) for non-traumatic dental conditions (NTDCs). What drives these costly ED visits and who is most likely to make them? A new visual report from CareQuest Institute explores those questions within the state of Minnesota. 

Who Is Most Likely to Seek Dental Care at the ED in Minnesota?  

Researchers found that Minnesotans ages 25–34 enrolled in Medicaid make up 45% of all ED visits for NTDCs, compared to approximately 43% nationally. While uninsured adults ages 25–34 make up approximately 20% of the ED dental visits in Minnesota, the uninsured percentage is much higher nationally at 34%. Other findings in Minnesota include:  

  • Adults ages 25–34 have the highest rate of ED use for NTDCs (118.3 visits per 10,000 people), while adults ages 65 and older have the lowest rate (17.7 visits per 10,000 people).  
  • Black residents of all ages visit the ED for NTDCs more than four times the rate of white and Hispanic residents, with 163.5 visits per 10,000 people 
  • In 2019, the total cost of ED visits for NTDCs in Minnesota was more than $29 million. The average charge for an ED visit for NTDCs was $1,032 in Minnesota — less than the national average at $1,872 but much more than a dental office visit at $90–$200.  

The visual report also covers promising solutions to expand access to care, including comprehensive adult dental coverage within Medicaid and Medicare. As of 2020, the end of the data collection period, Minnesota did not offer an extensive Medicaid adult dental benefit. Access to extensive dental benefits plays a crucial role in increasing access to and utilization of preventive care and reducing disparities in dental care visits. 

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