Potentially Preventable Dental Care in Operating Rooms for Children Enrolled in Medicaid

A dental professional with a young patient
Regular dental care can prevent the development of conditions that require expensive care in operating rooms.
What is it?

This study by the Pacific Center for Special Care looked at the frequency and cost and system implications of children enrolled in Medicaid who receive surgical care for dental conditions in hospital operating rooms and ambulatory surgery centers.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Dental care in hospitals and surgery centers isn't cheap; however, regular dental care can prevent the development of conditions that require that kind of treatment. Identifying the extent of the care and costs is the first step to improving care while reducing costs. Quantifying the exact amount being spent on preventable infections, abscesses and other consequences of neglected oral health could help justify increased funding for dental care or changes in the dental health delivery system.

How does it work?

Researchers analyzed Medicaid data in 8 states (6 of which had complete data) to find cases in which children (ages 1-20) received surgical care for conditions with certain diagnostic codes. There were $68 million in total Medicaid payments for these cases in 2011, with an average cost of $2,581 per case. 98% of the cases were related to treatment of dental caries, and 71% of the cases were in children younger than five.

What are the results?

Dental decay in children may have cost the United States an extra $450 million in 2011.

What are the next steps?

Improving access to care and providing expanded oral health education could help prevent tooth decay from reaching the crisis point for so many children. Not only would it prevent much pain and suffering, but now we have a better idea of how much money could be saved.

Source

"Potentially preventable dental care in operating rooms for children enrolled in Medicaid", Journal of the American Dental Association, September 2016, Volume 147, Issue 9, Pages 702-708

Authors

Brian K. Bruen, MS, lead research scientist, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University
Erika Steinmetz, MBA, research scientist, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University
Tyler Bysshe, MPH, research associate, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University
Paul Glassman, DDS, MA, MBA, professor of dental practice, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry
Leighton Ku, PhD, MPH, professor, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University