Report: Dental problems raising health care costs

Report: Dental problems raising health care costs
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A new report blames bad teeth for raising health care costs in Dane County.

Thousands of patients are showing up at local emergency rooms with dental problems, and it’s costing millions of dollars, according to the report from the Public Health Department and the Oral Health Coalition.

The report shows that more than 4,000 people were treated at an urgent care or emergency room in Dane County in 2015.

Local emergency departments saw just over half of those patients for non-traumatic dental pain, which resulted in more than $2.5 million in charges.

The report finds the majority of those people are from low-income areas with a shortage of dental providers.

Last year, a nonprofit organization called the Madison Dental Initiative was launched in an attempt to get care to those who need it most.

“There’s thousands of people going to ERs for dental care. The problem with that is there are no dentists there, so they are usually given pain meds or antibiotics and then sent away,” said Curtis Henderson, executive director of the Madison Dental Initiative. “The problem with that is it’s not really fixing the problem. That’s just a Band-Aid on the bigger issue.”

The Madison Dental Initiative works with local emergency departments to connect patients with dentists.

Henderson said anyone who needs dental help should call the initiative at 608-665-2752. He said they can typically get a patient in quickly or can put them in touch with another provider who can see them.