In its recent report, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission noted the significant cost of providing dental care in emergency rooms, and proposed two ways of preventing these visits: mid-level dental providers and teledentistry. The commission found that an emergency room visit for an oral health condition ranged from $400 to $1,500 per visit, or four to seven times more than an office visit, and that 48.8 percent of all preventable emergency room oral health visits were paid for by MassHealth, though not all dentists accept MassHealth. Individuals resort to emergency services when they have challenges accessing care at a dentist’s office.
We have a solution that would improve access. Instead of going to a dentist’s office, patients can have care brought straight to them. The creation of mid-level dental providers would bring care to those who need it the most. The mid-level provider would go to the patient while working with a dentist. By authorizing dental hygiene practitioners, as our proposed legislation does, we can spend more efficiently on health care, prevent expensive oral health emergency visits, and improve access.