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 North Carolina.
Percentage of ED Visits for Dental Problems Is Much Higher among Uninsured Adults in North Carolina than National Average
Researchers found that North Carolinians ages 25–34 enrolled in Medicaid make up nearly 21% of all ED visits for NTDCs, about half the national rate (approximately 43%). Meanwhile, uninsured adults ages 25–34 make up approximately 61% of the ED dental visits in North Carolina, compared to 34% nationally. Other findings in North Carolina include:
- Adults ages 25–34 have the highest rate of ED use for NTDCs (204.1 visits per 10,000 people), while adults ages 65 and older have the lowest rate (18.5 visits per 10,000 people).
- Black residents of all ages visit the ED for NTDCs at a rate more than double the rate of white residents and nearly 4.5 times more than the rate of Hispanic residents.
- In 2019, the total cost of ED visits for NTDCs in North Carolina was nearly $116 million. The average charge for an ED visit for NTDCs was $1,527 in North Carolina — 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, North Carolina 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.
You may also be interested in:
- Emergency Departments Are No Place for Dental Care, a web page featuring a series of research reports about adult utilization of EDs for non-traumatic dental conditions across the US and by individual states.
- Maryland’s Successful Path to Securing Dental Coverage for Low-Income Adults, a blog post that explains how leaders from the Maryland Dental Action Coalition successfully advocated for dental coverage for 800,000 adults on Medicaid.
- Medicaid Adult Dental Coverage Checker, an interactive tool that shows where a given state’s Medicaid adult dental benefits package falls on a continuum from no dental benefits to extensive benefits, helping policymakers and advocates identify areas for improvement.