As CNBC reports, Americans see a significant increase in emergency dental visits on March 18, or the next business day after if that’s on a weekend. That’s because people have a tendency to consume too much alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day and may also emulate another stereotypical Irish behavior: fighting.
When Reveling Unravels
This data showed that March 18, 2015 was 64% higher than the average number of emergency dental visits for the entire month before. But many states see a much higher increase. Delaware, Mississippi, Maryland, and Nebraska all see an increase of more than 150% in the number of emergency dental visits on March 18, while for Utah, Texas, Montana, and the District of Columbia, visits increased by more than 100%. Only Vermont saw an actual decrease in emergency dental visits the day after St. Patrick’s Day.
The reason for the increase is that people consume so much more alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day than other days. Depending on the estimate St. Patrick’s Day may have the fourth highest alcohol consumption of any day, or it may be first. And unlike many of the other days on the list, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a family holiday that’s celebrated at home–people tend to celebrate at bars, increasing the risk for dental injuries. Common causes of dental injuries include:
- Car accidents
These can lead to injuries from minor chipped teeth to knocked out teeth.
Not All Visits Occur on the 18th
Although these statistics show how much emergency dental visits increase on the 18th of March, we actually see people coming in for reconstructive dentistry for weeks and even months later.
In some cases, it’s because people didn’t think they needed emergency care, but later realized the seriousness of their injury. A minor chipped tooth might get treated because the appearance bothers you, or if you notice that it’s sensitive to hot or cold liquids. A tooth that got knocked loose might not lead to a dental visit until you see it getting discolored or if it gets looser rather than more stable.
Other times, people come to us because they’re unhappy with the results they got from their emergency dental visit. A dental crown may not fit or may not look attractive. Or maybe there is pain associated with the restored tooth. Sometimes people get a temporary treatment after an emergency, planning to get more permanent reconstructive treatments later. A tooth that might have been thought saved might fail, requiring replacement with dental implants.
It’s important to note that there is no relationship in the increased demand for emergency dentistry after St. Patrick’s Day and the actual Irish population. In the state with the highest increase in emergency dental visits, Delaware, only has about 11% of its population claiming Irish ancestry. However, nearby Vermont, which saw a decrease in emergency dental visits, actually has 17% of its population that claims Irish descent.
What has happened is that companies–especially bars and liquor merchants–have marketed St. Patrick’s Day as a drinking holiday. Building off a detrimental stereotype of the Irish, they have packaged the religious holiday as a day to be drunk in the otherwise (sometimes literally) sober period of Lent. In fact, it’s worth noting that Mississippi, which has the second highest increase in post-St. Patrick’s Day emergency dental visits, is the least Catholic state in the US.
A similar appropriation of a cultural holiday has occurred with Cinco de Mayo, where even more beer is sold than for St. Patrick’s Day. The American celebration of Cinco de Mayo, a minor holiday in Mexico, was driven by marketers from Corona who were looking for a way to sell more beer in the US.
Although many people enjoy their St. Patrick’s Day drinking, it might be good to celebrate other aspects of Irish culture, such as Irish literature. To be fair, reading James Joyce’s Ulysses can make your head spin as much as a bottle of Jameson’s, but Irish people would be happy to see changing attitudes toward their culture–and it’s (slightly) less likely to knock your teeth out.