There are an estimated 4 million Ohioans who do not have dental insurance, many of whom go to an emergency room when they have a dental emergency such as an abscess or bleeding gums (Source: “Dental clinics try to fill care gap as poor turn to ERs,” Columbus Dispatch, June 15, 2008). However, emergency rooms typically are not equipped to handle non-trauma related dental procedures.
There are 120 dental clinics that provide the kind of preventive dental care to low-income patients in Ohio that could make trips to the emergency room avoidable, but the demand far exceeds the availability of services. Further exacerbating the problem is that only about 25 percent of dentists accept Medicaid patients because they say they only get reimbursed for about half of their costs. Next month the legislator and Gov. Strickland are expected to address the issue by reinstating funding for the adult Medicaid dental program.