World Water Week; Dental Conditions and Emergency Visits

This week, August 23 – 27, is a global celebration of World Water Week, an annual event on global water issues organized by Stockholm International Water Institute. The week attracts participants from more than 130 countries and consists of a broad array of activities convened by leading international organizations on a broad array of water-related topics, ranging from food security and health, to agriculture, technology, biodiversity, and the climate crisis.

Did you know that water and oral health have a strong connection? The CDC website has an informative write-up on the 75th anniversary of community water fluoridation as follows: “Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first US city to fluoridate its public water supply in 1945. Five years later, when the schoolchildren of Grand Rapids were found to have significantly fewer cavities than children from surrounding communities, other Michigan cities also began fluoridating and soon achieved similar results. Within a few years, cities and towns across the United States were fluoridating their water. Since its launch over 75 years ago, community water fluoridation has proved to be one of public health’s greatest success stories, improving the health and wellbeing of people in the United States and around the world.  Although other fluoride-containing products, such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, and dietary supplements are available and contribute to the prevention and control of tooth decay, community water fluoridation has been identified as the most cost-effective method of delivering fluoride to all, reducing tooth decay by 25% in children and adults.”

In other news from partners in healthcare, a new statistical brief Emergency Department Visits Involving Dental Conditions, 2018, was just published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. This brief updates a similar report from 2009 and provides valuable information about dental-related Emergency Department (ED) visits. A few highlights include:

  • In 2018, there were more than 2 million dental-related ED visits, which represented 615.5 visits per 100,000 population.
  • The highest population rates of dental-related ED visits were among non-Hispanic Black individuals, individuals aged 18–44 years, and those residing in the lowest income communities.
  • Of all dental-related ED visits, nearly 95 percent were treated and released, and 5 percent resulted in admission to the hospital.
  • Among treat-and-release ED visits with a principal diagnosis of a dental condition, three groups of dental conditions accounted for 93 percent of visits—loss of teeth and similar disorders, diseases of pulp and periapical tissues, and dental caries.

Emergency dental services provided in our clinics provide a tremendous benefit to the local community. Thank you to all involved in triaging and caring for the people who come to us each week in pain or discomfort. We were fortunate last spring during the start of the pandemic to be able to continue offering emergency services to the public in order to prevent those individuals from going to hospital emergency rooms. Thank you all for understanding the importance of oral health to overall health and the service you provide for helping our communities live healthy lives.

I will end this note with a quote shared with me this week by Dr. Steven Sadowsky.

“Service is the rent we pay for our room here on earth.” —Muhammad Ali

Be well,