The state of Texas is paying for dental infections in a big way, according to a new report issued by the nonprofit Texas Health Institute. Seeking to quantify the economic cost of the lack of proper dental care, the Texas Health Institute found that hospital fees due to nontraumatic dental infections cost Texas around $1.7 billion over the past ten years, and also resulted in the death of nearly 200 Texans.

Elsewhere in the United States, emergency rooms have also seen a rise. In Florida, emergency room visits for dental-related issues increased from 100,000 in 2005 to 163,000 in 2014, costing nearly $193 million in fees in 2014. The most recent study conducted by Texas Health Institute was one of the few in recent years assessing the economic impact associated with treating dental-related conditions at hospitals. And considering that most most hospitals aren’t in a position to treat underlying dental diseases, there must be a better way.

stack of $100 bills with dental exam tools sitting on top of them

How Was the Study Conducted?

Using hospital utilization data between 2007-2016, researchers quantified information such as demographic, diagnosis, and payers to reach their conclusion. What they found was that almost 48,000 Texans were given inpatient treatment at hospitals for nontraumatic dental conditions. Charges to insurers topped $1.7 billion, which works out to an average of $37,000 per patient. Around 196 patients died after admittance to the hospital.

One of the most commonly diagnosed conditions, according to researchers, was cellulitis of the face caused by an underlying dental condition, followed by periapical abscess without sinus involvement. Rural communities were impacted hardest, the age of patients ranging from 20 to 64 years old.

How Can You Prevent an Emergency Room Visit?

Even with insurance, an emergency room visit can be costly. Many of the biggest insurers charge their customers a $300 co-pay for a single visit, in additional to deductibles and treatment fees not covered by insurance. If you can avoid the emergency room, wouldn’t you want to? One of the revelations of this most recent study makes it pretty clear on how to avoid an instance like this in the future, and the rule is simple: don’t skip on your dental visits or checkups.

According to the research, dental infections which escalate to inpatient hospital stays have a similar pattern. They start with a minor dental infection due to lack of preventative care, then transition to a doctor’s or emergency room visit that will probably include an antibiotic. The problem is, of course, that this doesn’t treat the underlying cause of the infection, meaning the infection will come back worse than it was in the first place. To avoid this cycle, it’s up to patients to be proactive.

The American Dental Association suggests visiting your dentist every six months for a check-up and preventative care. Not only will this help you to avoid dental infections in the future, it will also help prevent serious complications like gum disease, which can increase your chances of Alzheimer’s.

If you are in Wichita Falls, TX or surrounding areas and looking for a dentist to protect the health and beauty of your smile, please call 940-322-2252 today for an appointment at StarImage Dentistry.