In Massachusetts, there were more than 36,000 visits to emergency departments in 2014 for preventable oral health issues, costing the state’s health care system between $14.8 million and $36 million. Despite covering only 24 percent of the state’s residents, MassHealth was the primary payer of oral health emergency department visits that year, paying between $7.2 million and $17.6 million for all visits.1
When dental care is inaccessible, people often wait until a problem becomes an emergency before seeking treatment. Aside from the significantly greater expense, emergency departments are also ill-equipped to adequately address underlying dental problems. Allowing Massachusetts dentists to hire dental therapists would strengthen the safety net for vulnerable populations.
1 Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, “HPC Policy Brief” (Aug. 1, 2016), http://www.mass.gov/anf/budget-taxes-and-procurement/oversight-agencies/health-policy-commission/publications/oral-health-policy-brief.pdf.