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Dental pain in the medical emergency department: a cross-sectional study

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Summary

The aim of this study was to examine the number of patients attending a medical emergency department (MED) with dental problems over a three-year period. This cross-sectional study was carried out as part of a service evaluation. Data were collected via a database search of patient attendances at the MED using free text and the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) for oral and dental diagnoses. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics, t-test and chi-squared tests. Over the three-year period, there were 2504 visits to the MED for dental-related complaints, accounting for 0·7% of all attendances. The majority of patients were male (53·9%), with a mean age of 29 (s.d. 19·4) years for men, and 32 (s.d. 19·7) years for females. The mean index of multiple deprivation per cent rank was 35·0%. The most common diagnosis was unspecified dental disorder. Ten per cent of dental attendances to MED were repeat attendances by the same patients. In conclusion, patient attendances at MED for dental problems account for 0.7% of all attendances. MED may not be the most appropriate place for these patients to attend, in terms of care pathways, and also for economic reasons. The reasons why patients attend MED for dental problems clearly warrant further research.

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