Dental patients resort to A&E

THE cost of dental patients attending for treatment at hospital A&Es could be ten times government estimates, according to new research.

A study by Newcastle University's Centre for Oral Health Research found that around 0.7 per cent of all attendances at English A&Es are for dental problems – which is ten times official government figures. Over half of cases relate to toothache.

The BDA says this research reveals a systematic under-reporting of dental problems at A&E departments. Official national figures for England place the annual number of dental investigations at A&E at 14,468 but the BDA estimates that the figure is closer to 135,000 patients, costing the NHS nearly £18 million.

Another recent report from the BDA estimated that around 600,000 patients a year seek treatment from GPs, who are not trained to treat dental pain, costing the NHS an estimated 26 million a year.

Lead author on the study and senior lecturer in oral surgery and orofacial pain at Newcastle University, Dr Justin Durham, said: "Ensuring that patients are treated in the right place, at the right time, by the right team is essential for both the patient and the wider public, not just to ensure appropriate diagnosis and treatment but also reduce unnecessary care, and personal costs."

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, Chair of General Dental Practice at the BDA, also commented: "We are seeing patients who need our care pushed towards medical colleagues who aren't equipped to treat them. As long as government keeps slashing budgets and ramping up charges we will keep seeing more of the same."