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Dental problems account for one in 140 emergency department visits

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 09 January 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j98

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Multi-million pound price tag of toothache at A&E and GP practice

Mayor [1] reported a recent study from Newcastle showing that patients attending A&E with dental problems are now approaching 0.7% of all attendees. This figure is 10 times official government estimates, with over half of the attendances identified related to toothache.

Around 14,500 patients with dental problems attend A&Es in England according to official statistics. The British Dental Association has estimated that systematic under-reporting could conservatively place dental attendees at closer to 135,000 patients per year at an annual cost of nearly £18 million – with more than 95,000 cases of toothache coming in at £12.5 million. [2]

The British Dental Association recently estimated that 600,000 patients a year are seeking treatment from GPs, who like A&E medics are not equipped to treat dental pain. It is estimated that these appointments cost the NHS over £26 million a year. [3]

[1] Mayor S. Dental problems account for one in 140 emergency department visits. BMJ 2017;356:j98.

[2] British Dental Association. Toothache piling financial pressure on A&E. 6 January 2017.

[3] British Dental Association. NHS charges masking cuts and driving patients to GPs, say
dentists. 6 September 2016.

Competing interests: No competing interests

19 January 2017
C Albert Yeung
Consultant in Dental Public Health
NHS Lanarkshire
Kirklands, Fallside Road, Bothwell G71 8BB