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

Published 11/01/2022

Millions of Americans 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 Colorado.  

Percentage of Adults on Medicaid Visiting the ED for Dental Problems in Colorado Is Above National Average  

Researchers found that Coloradoans ages 25–34 enrolled in Medicaid make up 59% of all ED visits for NTDCs, compared to approximately 43% nationally. While uninsured adults ages 25–34 make up approximately 17% of the ED dental visits in Colorado, the uninsured percentage is twice as much nationally at 34%. Other findings in Colorado include: 

  • Adults ages 25–34 have the highest rate of ED use for NTDCs (61 visits per 10,000 people) while adults ages 65 and older have the lowest rate (16.2 visits per 10,000 people). 
  • Across all demographic groups, Black residents of all ages have the highest rate of ED use for NTDCs, with 88 visits per 10,000 people. This is nearly three times the rate for white and Hispanic residents. 
  • In 2019, the total cost of ED visits for NTDCs in Colorado was more than $68 million. The average charge for an ED visit for NTDCs was $3,604 in Colorado. This is nearly two times more than the national average charge for a visit to the ED for a dental problem ($1,872), and 18 times more than a dentist office visit for dental pain at $200. 

The report also explores reasons for ED visits and promising solutions to expand access to care. 

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