Low-income and minority patient satisfaction with visits to emergency departments and physician offices for dental problems.

Leonard A. Cohen, Shelly L. Harris, Arthur J. Bonito, Richard J. Manski, Mark D. Macek, Robert R. Edwards, Niharika Khanna, Keith O. Plowden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: Individuals lacking access to dentists may use hospital emergency departments (EDs) or physicians (MDs) for the management of their dental problems. This study examined visits by minority and low-income individuals to physicians and hospital emergency departments for the treatment of dental problems with the goal of exploring the nature of treatment provided and patient satisfaction with the care received. METHODS: Eight focus group sessions were conducted with 53 participants drawn from low-income White, Black, and Hispanic adults who had experienced a dental problem and who had sought MD/ED care at least once during the previous 12 months. RESULTS: Toothache pain or more generalized jaw/face pain was the most frequent oral problem resulting in MD/ED visits. Pain severity was the principle reason for seeking care from MDs/EDs, with financial barriers most often mentioned as the reason for not seeking care from dentists. Expectations of MD/ED visits were generally consistent with care received; most participants limited their expectations to the provision of antibiotics or pain medication. Nearly all of the participants thought they would eventually need to see a dentist for resolution of their dental problem. CONCLUSIONS: Poor/minority individuals seek relief from oral pain through MDs/ EDs while recognizing that such care is not definitive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-31
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of the American College of Dentists
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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