Financial Impact of Emergency Department Visits for Dental Conditions in Maryland: An Update

Published 08/05/2021

When people don’t have access to dental insurance, they often resort to the emergency department (ED) for severe dental problems — resulting in far costlier care. In 2018, the state of Maryland launched a pilot program designed in part to address this issue. The program provided dental benefits for Maryland adults who were dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.

Although additional research is needed to understand the efficacy of the program, an updated CareQuest Institute for Oral Health report underscores why expanding dental benefits to Medicaid participants is an opportunity for policy change to reduce ED visits for non-traumatic dental conditions (NTDC). Key findings include:

  • Although Medicaid members comprise only 17% of Maryland adults, they account for 54% of all the state’s ED visits for NTDCs and 46% of total cost.
  • Maryland continues to have rates of adult ED visits for NTDCs that exceed the national average.
  • Like in other states, younger adults are much more likely to visit hospital EDs for NTDCs than older adults in Maryland. In 2019, the rate of visits among adults aged 20-34 was more than double the rate among those aged 45 or older.

This final and important finding suggests that states seeking to reduce ED visits could make greater progress toward reducing costs associated with ED visits for NTDCs by improving the quality of Medicaid dental benefits for all eligible members, as opposed to focusing on subgroups that are older or that have a higher prevalence of chronic diseases.

You may also be interested in: