Racial and Ethnic Variations in Waiting Times for Emergency Department Visits Related to Nontraumatic Dental Conditions in the United States

Document Type




Format of Original

9 p.

Publication Date



American Dental Association

Source Publication

Journal of the American Dental Association

Source ISSN




Researchers have documented an association between waiting times in emergency departments (EDs) and quality of care for medical conditions, but little is known about trends and factors associated with waiting times for ED visits related to nontraumatic dental conditions (NTDCs). The authors examined trends in waiting time and associated factors for NTDC-related ED visits in the United States.


The authors analyzed data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care survey for 1997 to 2007, excluding 2001 and 2002 owing to lack of information about waiting times. The authors used a survey-weighted linear regression of log-transformed waiting-time model to determine the waiting time for NTDC-related visits.


The geometric mean (standard error) waiting times for NTDC- and non–NTDC-related visits were 29 (1.0) and 25 (0.6) minutes, respectively (P < .01). The geometric mean waiting time for NTDC-related visits increased by 6 percent annually and from 20 minutes in 1997 to 37 minutes in 2007. Compared with whites, Hispanics and African Americans had significantly longer waiting times for NTDC-related visits (adjusted fold-difference [R] = 1.2, 95 percent confidence interval [CI] = 1.13–1.31) and [R] = 1.3, [CI] = 1.29–1.38). Age, payer type, reason for visit and triage category were significant predictors of waiting time (R = 2.3 and 2.4 for NTDC-related visits in the triage categories of more than one to two hours and more than two to 24 hours, respectively).


Nationally, waiting times in EDs for NTDC-related visits increased over time. Compared with whites, Hispanics and blacks waited longer to receive care for NTDCs in EDs.

Practical Implications

Prolonged waiting times associated with NTDC-related ED visits reinforce the need for dental professionals to continue to advise patients regarding the need to implement oral health preventive strategies and to avoid the use of the ED for preventable common dental conditions.


Journal of the American Dental Association, Vol. 144, No. 7 (July 2013): 828-836. DOI.