A new study says people who go to Michigan hospitals seeking treatment for dental conditions that could have been prevented through regular dental care increases health care costs by millions of dollars in the state.

The study was conducted by the East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group. The AEG report, "The Cost of Dental-Related Emergency Room Visits in Michigan," found that in 2011, at least 7,000 patients visited Michigan hospital emergency rooms and more than 1,000 patients were hospitalized for preventable dental conditions. It says that total payments made by patients and insurers for these services exceeded $15 million dollars.

And while payments exceeded 15  million, hospital charges for the dental care services totaled about $58 million in 2011 - a ratio of charges to payments that implies that hospitals may not cover their costs providing this care. AEG said that while the State of Michigan has multiple programs aimed at giving children and adults access to preventative oral health care, a significant unmet need still exists, especially among adults.

The report goes on to say that the continued use of hospitals for preventative dental conditions can be partially attributed to the remaining barriers to oral health care, and those barriers (quote) "are particularly prevalent among adults, as the income level requirements for free or reduced-cost dental care for adults is generally less generous than for children."