MassHealth Spending on Dental Care in the Emergency Department

Millions spent on preventable oral health costs


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),

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