OBJECTIVES: To examine patterns of dental service utilization for adult Medicaid enrollees in Wisconsin following nontraumatic dental condition (NTDC) visits to the emergency department (ED).
METHODS: This is a retrospective, observational study of claims for NTDC visits to the ED and dental service encounters from the Wisconsin Medicaid Evaluation and Decision Support database (2001-2009). We used competing risk models to predict probabilities of returning to the ED versus obtaining follow-up care from a dentist.
RESULTS: We observed a 43 percent increase in the rate of NTDC visits to the ED, with most of this increase occurring from 2001 to 2005. Within 30 days of an NTDC visit to the ED, ∼29.6 percent of enrollees will first visit a dentist office, while ∼9.9 percent will return to the ED. Young to middle-aged adults (18 to <50 years) and enrollees living in counties with a lower supply of dental providers were more likely to return to the ED following a NTDC visit. Among the enrollees that first visited a dental office following an ED visit, 37.6 percent had an extraction performed at this visit.
CONCLUSIONS: Almost one in five adult Medicaid enrollees will subsequently return to the ED following a previous NTDC visit. The provision of definitive care for these individuals appears to primarily consist of extractions.