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Objectives:Frequency of emergency department (ED) use for nontraumatic dental conditions (NTDC) is a well-researched community health concern. However, research predominately relies on ambulatory ED discharge records. This explanatory sequential mixed methods study reviewed NTDC ED use in hot-spot counties and assessed perceptions around preventable and appropriate use among EDs and dental clinics.

Methods:Tooth pain data (2015-2021) were drawn from State Medicaid, and the Early Notification of Community-Based Epidemics (ESSENCE). NTDC data were compiled using International Classification of Disease, Ninth and Tenth Revisions. Employing extreme case sampling, providers in counties with the highest per-capita NTDC ED use were interviewed.

Results:North Dakota experienced a decline in NTDC ED visits between 2017 and 2020, though the rate is now increasing. The greatest proportion of NTDC ED visits were among persons ages 20 to 34 and 35 to 44. ED and dental care staff have misconceptions around each other’s roles in reducing NTDC ED visits, but unanimously suggest community-level prevention as a solution.

Conclusions:NTDC ED use was perceived as “appropriate” care. However, there is consensus that improved access to, and utilization of, affordable and quality preventative dental care would reduce NTDC ED visits and improve overall community health, especially among populations experiencing greater inequities.




This article was originally published in:

Schroeder S, Beck J, Medalen N, Stepanov A. Emergency Department and Dental Clinic Perceptions of Appropriate, and Preventable, Use of the ED for Non-Traumatic Dental Conditions in Hot-Spot Counties: A Mixed Methods Study. Journal of Primary Care & Community Health. 2024;15. doi:10.1177/21501319231222396

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License