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Trends in emergency department visits for non-traumatic dental conditions in Ontario from 2006 to 2014

Sonica Singhal, Lindsay McLaren, Carlos Quiñonez


OBJECTIVE: In Canada, non-traumatic dental conditions (NTDCs) presenting in emergency departments (EDs) are dealt with by non-dental professionals who are generally not equipped to deal with such emergencies, resulting in an inefficient usage of heath care resources. This study aimed to assess the burden of ED visits for NTDCs in Ontario by observing trends from 2006 to 2014.

METHODS: Aggregate data for Ontario were obtained from the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s National Ambulatory Care Reporting System. Data were examined for the whole of Ontario and stratified by 14 Local Health Integration Networks. Descriptive analysis was conducted for both number of people and number of visits, stratified by sex and age groups (0–5, 6–18, 19–64, and 65+ years). Numbers were also examined by neighbourhood stratifications, including urban/rural, income quintile and immigrant tercile.

RESULTS: Over the study period, an upward trend of visiting EDs for NTDCs was observed. Approximately 403 628 people in Ontario made 482 565 visits over the period of nine years. On average, 341 per 100 000 people, per year, visited. Young children, people living in neighbourhoods with lower income and higher immigrant concentration, and people living in the rural regions, visited EDs more for NTDCs during 2006–2014.

CONCLUSION: The upward and inequitable trends of utilization of EDs for NTDCs reinforce recognition of the important need for both universal and targeted approaches for primary prevention of dental conditions. To enhance equitable access to dental care, policy advocacy is required for publicly funding essential and emergency dental services for all.


Dental care; emergency service; hospital; health status disparities

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