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Report: Preventable dental problems costing Michigan ERs

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A new report says preventable dental treatment is taking a bite out of Michigan hospital emergency room budgets.

The Anderson Economic Group study says in 2011, about 7,000 people with cavities, abscesses, and other preventable dental problems showed up in Michigan ERs.  About 1,000 needed to be hospitalized.

The numbers are similar to those in a national report.

Alex Rosaen is with AEG.   He says hospitals were paid $15 million to treat preventable dental problems. That's only about a quarter of what hospitals say was their actual cost of providing the care. The numbers are similar to those in a national report. 

“Again, (that money was spent) for conditions that started as dental conditions, that could have been treated in a traditional dental setting, like a dentist's office,” says Rosaen.

Rosaen says many of these patients actually had dental insurance, but for some reason they didn’t seek help until the problem or pain drove them to the emergency room.

He says expanded government health care programs may help somewhat, but other solutions are needed.

“There is already a tremendous effort by people who care, acting on their own or working in their communities to deal with this,” says Rosaen.

The study, commissioned by Delta Dental, is intended to give hard numbers to those working to find a solution. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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