OBJECTIVE: There is a paucity of published studies presenting nationally representative estimates on hospital-based emergency department visits primarily attributed to dental caries. The objective of this study is to provide estimates of hospital-based emergency department visits attributed to dental caries in the United States.
METHODS: The Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, a component of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, was used for this study. All emergency department visits attributable to dental caries were identified using ICD-9-CM diagnoses codes and selected for analysis. Outcomes including hospital charges and length of stay in hospital were examined. Simple descriptive statistics were used to summarize the data.
RESULTS: This study found that in 2006, a total of 330,757 visits to hospital-based emergency departments occurred in the United States. The total charges were $110 million. Approximately 45% of all visits by adults occurred among the uninsured. Medicaid was the most common payer for all visits by children, accounting for nearly 53% of all visits. About 38% of visits occurred among those residing in low-income areas. Hospitalization was required for 158 visits.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides nationwide estimates of hospital-based emergency department visits attributed to dental caries in the United States. The uninsured constituted the greatest proportion of emergency department visits among adults, whereas Medicaid was the major payer for children visiting the emergency departments.