We were pleased to see that the Globe has brought attention to issues related to oral health by printing a graphic on the front page of the Metro section (“Emergency dental care costly,” April 12). The introduction cited a recent study that said that “oral health emergency department visits in Massachusetts are expensive and avoidable through preventative treatment in a less costly setting.” The figures in the graphic capture the high costs associated with emergency department visits in hospitals.
The three Boston dental schools and their affiliated clinics play a critical role in allowing access to oral health care and in lowering the overall costs incurred by emergency departments in hospitals. For example, the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine annually sees 2,700 patients in its emergency clinic, 30,200 patients in student-resident clinics, and 5,500 patients in Tufts Dental Facilities, which provide comprehensive dental care for adults and children with developmental disabilities living in Massachusetts.
States should work closely with and support their dental schools to tap into an important resource that allows patients access to affordable oral health care, thus lowering overall health care costs.
The writer is a professor of periodontology and the associate dean of academic affairs at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.