Existence of local emergency dental services doesn't always translate to access. Cost is always going to be an obstacle for a certain segment of the population, but researchers have also found that not all insurance agencies are created equal when it comes to providing emergency dental services, or reimbursing for those services.
According to a multi-agency study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, researchers found that dentists in Illinois, including those participating in state-sponsored Medicaid, were far less likely to see a child patient suffering from an acute oral injury if the family had public insurance, compared to a family with private insurance, such as Blue Cross. Based on those findings, researchers concluded that the study had "implications for developing policies that improve access to oral health care" [source: Bisgaier].
Dr. Tegwin Brickhouse wrote for Medscape News that the study indicates "the issues for reducing disparities in access to care are complex" [source: Brickhouse]. Specifically, Brickhouse noted that the divide in access between publicly and privately insured patients will "continue to demand the collaborative attention of policymakers and dental providers."
Robert Gist, president of the American Dental Association (ADA), said the study "supports the ADA's longstanding position that better funding for public assistance programs is critical. Lack of funding is among the greatest barriers to better oral health in America" [source: Gist]. Furthermore, Gist said the study substantiated concerns about "chronic underfunding that afflicts most state Medicaid programs," but also revealed that many patients need help "navigating an often complicated bureaucracy and overcoming other barriers."
But Gist added that, even if fully funded, the programs couldn't reach their full potential without a reduction in red tape or other obstacles to proper care [source: Gist].
Established traditional dental practices are also recognizing the need to provide some form of emergency care, as they risk losing patients if they're not available to treat when an untimely accident occurs [source: Top Dentists Online]. The bottom line? Maintaining good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent dental emergencies. But accidents can still happen. Be proactive, and talk to your dentist about how to handle an emergency.
Need more information to help you prepare for your next dental emergency, wherever or whenever it may strike? We've got lots more information on the next page.