I was wondering if an individual has a dental emergency, are dentists required to give them care? For example, if they have a tooth that is broken and the there is possible nerve exposure? I know that if you go to the emergency room, the hospital cannot turn you away. So I was wondering if dentists have to treat you too? Even if a person doesn’t have insurance?
– Jennifer in Florida
You are correct when it comes to hospitals. Even if an individual cannot pay, they are required to treat you. This policy may vary from state to state, but if the hospital receives funds from the government, that is likely the case. But if you go into the emergency room with a dental emergency, unless there happens to be a dentist on staff, they will likely tell you to go see a dentist. It is possible they will provide a prescription for antibiotics or a small dose of pain medication. But again, they will recommend you see a dentist.
In the field of dentistry, a dentist has the right to refuse treatment to anyone. It is also sad but true, but many people will wait until they are in pain to seek dental care. So what many people consider an emergency, may have been troubling them for weeks or months. Then in the middle of the night when they cannot stand the pain any longer, they want to have it treated. Many dentists do not believe that this type of behavior entails a true dental emergency. Now if you fall on an uneven sidewalk and fall on your face and break a tooth, now that is a dental emergency.
If an individual is a patient of record, which means that they have been seeking regular preventive maintenance, most dental offices will make every effort to fit them in as soon as possible. Other dentists actually build their practices around accepting all dental emergencies, even if an individual has never been into the office before. Some go a step further and provide emergency care after hours and on the weekends.
But if someone’s approach is that they don’t have money, yet expect to be treated, that is a different story. A dentist deserves to be treated for the services provided. You wouldn’t run into the grocery store and say, sorry I don’t have money but I’ll pay you later.
This post is sponsored by Brook Park emergency dentist Hylan Dental Care.