August 14, 2022

madmenburger

Health for a better future

Nonprofit dental provider sees fewer referrals in drop in ER visits

To some people, it might sound unusual to go to the emergency room for tooth pain, but for the uninsured and those without dental benefits, it’s the logical option. 

The ER is where Dr. Angie’s Dental Health Exchange (DADHE) gets the majority of its referrals to its program, which provides dental care to uninsured patients in exchange for community service. However, since the pandemic drove ER visits down, the program has seen a drastic drop in participants.

DADHE board president Amy Hazlewood said local emergency ERs can provide temporary pain relief and then refer patients to the DADHE, which serves St. Joseph County. The goal of the program is to keep patients from becoming ER frequenters by fixing their long term dental problems.

“That has been our No. 1 focus, not only to get patients from the ER, but to keep them from going back there,” Hazlewood said.

However, many patients stopped going to the ER for a variety of medical needs once the pandemic began last year, and therefore, fewer patients have been referred to the dental program.

“I’d say we’re probably getting less than half of the number that we were when we first established,” Hazlewood said.