Dental Emergencies and our Deeply Flawed Medical System

If you have ever had a dental emergency during the holidays, you have found how difficult it is to find care. This is not to demand that dentists work all the time. What this is about is about the need for dental urgent care centers.

When you get sick, and it is Christmas, you can look for a series of different options. Some pharmacies will have nurses on call. This is likely the cheapest option, and for a simple cold, they work. Even for some simple to treat infections. You could even go to an urgent care center and get more advanced care. If need be, there are emergency rooms, the absolutely most expensive choice. And that should be used as a last recourse for simple things. Now, if you have a major medical issue, use 911 and the ER. It may very well save your life.

What if you have a dental issue? Some dentists have emergency numbers. Some work for practices, but most do not. And here is where we show how fractured the medical system is. First off. and I know some dentists and doctors do not like to hear this, dental work is medical care. Bad teeth can deepen a few medical issues, and even land you in the ER. A tooth abscess could kill you. Yet, finding the care you need is not always easy. Why? Doctors may take a vacation, but you still can access that care. Dentists take their vacation and you might have to jump through hoops.

As a country, we like to talk about how we desperately need single payer and join the rest of the developed world. Our medical care cost is out of control. Prescription drug cost is not just out of hand, but growing at almost exponential levels. Yet, when we finally do what the rest of the world is doing, we need to think of dental care as integral to this system.

Yes, as a country we need single payer and price controls on drugs. Why? The system is collapsing upon itself. And no, Insulin is not a new drug and should not cost at least 20 times more than it does in Mexico (Where there are maximum prices for drugs.) But we also need to have dentists at emergency rooms. And we also desperately need the equivalent of urgent dental care. Urgent care centers are cheaper options to the ER, and so should be dental urgent care centers. And we need to have that dental care also be part of that single-payer umbrella.

The same goes for vision as well. The whole system is fractured. This makes getting care difficult. We have a model for this. The medical system that covers active service members and their families is not fractured. An active duty member could go to the ER at a military facility for a major tooth issue. A dentist is on call and will respond and initiate the necessary care. This should exist at your local emergency room or urgent care center.

We got to experience this over the holidays. I ended up needing a root canal and antibiotics. But getting from incredible levels of pain to getting an appointment for a root canal took some hoops and the help of my dentist amazing staff. Why? We have no easy way of doing this, And as a country, we need that. We like to pretend that dental care is separate from medical care. They are not. They are part of the same packaged deal unless you can magically separate your mouth from the rest of your body.

Written by

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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