As an oral health care provider, you’re an essential member in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Many adolescents who abuse opioids have their first encounter with medically prescribed painkillers (such as those prescribed for wisdom tooth removal), according to the National Institutes of Health. The overall percentage of opioids prescribed by dentists increased by 12.9% from 2010 through 2015, so being aware of how to combat overprescribing is more important than ever.

The American Dental Association’s Policy on Opioid Prescribing supports:

  • making continuing education on prescribing opioids and other controlled substances mandatory
  • implementing statutory limits on opioid dosage and prescription duration
  • improving the quality, integrity and interoperability of state drug monitoring programs

Another important aspect of helping to combat opioid addiction is having open and honest discussions with your patients. The ADA has put together resources to help you educate your patients about the addictive qualities of narcotic painkillers. You can find a comprehensive collection of webinars about opioid prevention for dentists. For example, the ADA offers advice on selecting strategies for pain management that are appropriate for the estimated severity of different procedures.

Studies have also found that a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be a more effective pain management tool than simply prescribing opioids, as well. As Dr. Daniel Croley, our Vice President of Network Development, says, “We ask that all dentists consider non-addictive pain management as their first choice. When narcotics are needed, only prescribe the lowest dosage and quantity needed to effectively manage your patients’ pain.”

The opioid epidemic may be too big for any one person to solve, but to quote Dr. Croley, “Together, we can stop the overprescription and abuse of opioids.”