Editor's note: Dr. Charles H. Norman is the president of the American Dental Association and a practicing dentist in Greensboro, North Carolina. He and the association are leading a nationwide grass-roots effort called Action for Dental Health to address America's dental health crisis.(CNN) -- If you doubt there's a dental health crisis in America, walk into any emergency room. Every day, thousands of people without access to a dentist are looking for dental care in our ERs, most of which cannot provide the care these patients need.
We're experiencing this alarming trend right here in Greensboro, North Carolina. For example, one of our local hospitals, the Moses Cone Health Center, finds that about 10% of ER cases are related to dental issues.
Nationally, more than 2.1 million people, the vast majority of them adults, showed up in ERs with dental pain in 2010, double the number just a decade prior, according to the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.
Those ER visits for largely preventable issues cost the health system more than $2 billion that year. And the majority of dental ER visits, nearly 80%, were for common and preventable conditions like abscesses and cavities.
The reason for this? The percentage of working-age adults -- particularly young adults -- with private dental benefits continues to decline. And more than half of lower-income adults say they haven't seen a dentist in a year or longer. So patients go without proper cleaning and examinations and...