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Dental Expense - Gum Disease - Emergency Room Dental Care

Each year, more than 85,000 emergency-room visits are due to gum and periodontal problems, a new study finds. These visits cost more than $33 million a year.

Harvard researchers did the study. They used information from 24 states. It covered visits to hospital emergency rooms in 2006. In that year, 85,036 people visited an ER because of gingivitis, periodontal disease or receding gums. The average cost of this type of ER visit was $456. About 1 in 5 visitors was a child. Two-thirds of visitors had some form of insurance and a family income below $47,000 a year.

Just over half of the visits were for gingivitis. This is the mildest form of gum disease. Another 45% were for the more serious form, periodontal disease. In all, 1,167 people were admitted to the hospital. The average cost of a hospital stay was $15,248.

People with Medicare were more likely to be admitted to the hospital than younger people with private or public health insurance or no insurance. Medicare covers people age 65 and older.

People with certain other significant health conditions were more likely to be admitted to the hospital. The most common of these conditions were high blood pressure, chronic (long-term) lung disease, diabetes and depression.

People with severe or dangerous periodontal conditions also were more likely to be hospitalized. This includes people with abscesses, which are bacterial infections in the gums. Some abscesses can be life-threatening if not treated.

Less than half of American adults visit a dentist at least once a year. People who do not see a dentist regularly are more likely to visit the ER with dental problems.

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