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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 108, Issue 3, pp e279–e281 | Cite as

The 1% of emergency room visits for non-traumatic dental conditions in British Columbia: Misconceptions about the numbers

  • Mario BrondaniEmail author
  • Syed H. Ahmad
Commentary
  • 2 Downloads

Abstract

In Canada, about 1% of all emergency room (ER) visits in a given year are made by patients with a primary diagnosis of a non-traumatic, non-urgent and yet preventable condition, such as tooth decay. This percentage is typically dismissed as irrelevant. Using 2013–2014 British Columbia data on ER use from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, however, we argue that the 1% figure (and its associated cost) has to be considered beyond its percentage value. In 2013–2014 alone, 12 357 non-traumatic dental visits were made to ERs in BC representing 1% of the total number of ER visits at a cost of $154.8 million to the taxpayers (across Canada, all visits to ER cost $1.8 billion/year). But the vast majority of these dental visits are discharged while the oral problem likely persists, hence taxpayer dollars are wasted. The belief thatthese dental-related ER visits are insignificantwithin the total costfor the health care system is misleading: treatment is not given, the problem is not resolved, and yet there is a high costto taxpayers and to the society at large. Public health resources should be reallocated.

Key Words

Emergency room dental emergencies cost public health policy 

Résumé

Au Canada, environ 1 % des visites aux services d’urgence (SU) chaque année sont faites par des patients dont le diagnostic primaire concerne un problème évitable non traumatique et non urgent, comme la carie dentaire. Ce pourcentage est généralement tenu pour négligeable. D’après les données de 2013–2014 de l’Institut canadien d’information sur la santé sur l’utilisation des SU en Colombie-Britannique, nous faisons valoir que le chiffre de 1 % (et ses coûts associés) doit être considéré au-delà de sa valeur de pourcentage. En 2013–2014 seulement, il y a eu 12 357 visites aux SU pour faire traiter des problèmes dentaires non traumatiques en Colombie-Britannique, ce qui représente 1 % du nombre total de visites aux SU et a coûté 154,8 millions de dollars aux contribuables (à l’échelle du Canada, les visites aux SU coûtent 1,8 milliard de dollars par année). Mais la très grande majorité des personnes qui se présentent aux urgences pour des problèmes dentaires reçoivent leur congé malgré la persistance probable de leurs problèmes, ce qui constitue un gaspillage de fonds publics. Il est illusoire de croire que les visites aux SU pour faire traiter des problèmes dentaires ne représentent qu’une part négligeable des coûts totaux du système de soins de santé: aucun traitement n’est donné, les problèmes ne sont pas résolus, et pourtant cela coûte cher aux contribuables et à la société. Il y aurait lieu de réaffecter des ressources de santé publique.

Mots Clés

services d’urgence urgence dentaire coût santé publique politique (principe) 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of DentistryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of DentistryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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