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Letter: ER no place for dental issues

A recent column titled “Let’s expand our ability to provide dental care in our state” (Monitor Forum, Nov. 8) detailed improvements that can be made in access to dental care. The New Hampshire Emergency Nurses Association couldn’t agree more.

There are many dentists who work hard to make their care accessible, but their efforts are sadly not enough. As Mary Duquette pointed out, many patients do not have private dental insurance, and those on “Medicaid face more challenges, as many dentists see only a handful of Medicaid patients per year.”

There are areas in our state that don’t have enough dentists for the population they serve. Hospital emergency departments often end up seeing and treating patients with preventable dental problems. Sadly, we can only give patients temporary comfort with pain medication and antibiotics, while leaving the root cause of the problem untreated.

We believe, and studies have proven, that using an emergency department for dental ailments is a poor use of resources. Not only is it more costly but, more important, it does not provide a continuity of dental care that patients deserve. While we will never turn our patients away, we are not the right specialists to treat their condition. We in effect act like a Band-Aid. By expanding the dental team to allow another provider to be licensed, similar to nurse practitioners or physicians’ assistants, patients would have better access to care at a more affordable cost.



(The writer is president-elect of the New Hampshire Emergency Nurses Association.)

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