ER visits for dental emergencies in La. grows

Louisiana is spending more money for emergency room (ER) care for patients seeking relief from toothache pain.

The state spent $1.7 million on Medicaid patients who visited ERs complaining of caries-related pain during fiscal year 2010-2011, up from $1.66 million the year before, according to a story in the Shreveport Times.

As in most states, thousands of such patients who come to ERs annually for pain relief due to caries, abscesses, and other dental emergencies receive only palliative care and referral to an oral surgeon.

A Shreveport ER physician told the Times he usually sees at least one patient per shift who comes in with a toothache and others who have come in before for the same reason.

Federally mandated dental care for Medicaid recipients usually ends at age 18. Dental care for such patients varies from state to state. In Louisiana, dental care for Medicaid beneficiaries ends at 21.

Ten states no longer offer dental benefits to adult Medicaid patients, the story noted, and Medicare doesn't cover routine dental care or most restorative procedures, according to program officials.

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