Role Of Dentists In The Opioid CrisisDentists play an important role in the opioid epidemic as a major prescriber of pain medications for dental and oral surgical procedures.  Many people will avoid even going to the dentist from anxiety or fear.  Opioid medications can help patients to feel confident in pain management and to avoid delaying treatment.  Because of this, dentists may overprescribe pain medication which carries a high potential for abuse.

Dentists in the U.S. vs. England on Prescribing Opioids

According to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, JAMA, comparing opioid prescriptions by U.S. dentists and dental providers in England, findings concluded that opioid prescriptions by U.S. dentists were 37 times greater than dentists in England.  Considering very similar dental procedures, these findings indicate an overprescribing of opioids by U.S. dentists.  Opioids such as oxycodone were prescribed frequently in the U.S and have a high risk of misuse and abuse.

Overprescribing of opioid medications often affects teens and young adults after wisdom tooth extractions, which puts teens at a greater risk for opioid abuse later in life. According to a report by insurer United Healthcare, teens who use prescribed opioids prior to the 12th grade experience a 33% risk of future misuse of opioids following high school.

Education to Fight the Misuse of Opioid Medications 

Education is key for dental providers to fully understand opioid related topics and best practices.  The American Dental Association offers several educational webinars for dentists related to the opioid epidemic such as how to prevent opioid drug diversion, facts about the opioid overdose crisis and how to properly dispose of controlled substances.

Policies to Fight Opioid Abuse in Dentistry

United Healthcare has taken steps to limit opioid exposure in teens and to inform parents, patients, and dentists about the risks of opioids in dentistry such as:

  • Adopting a limit for all first-time opioid prescriptions for teens under the age of 19 to no more than a 3-day supply and ensuring prescriptions are fewer than 50 morphine milligrams.
  • Creating a public toolkit for patients and parents to review with their dental health professional regarding pain-management during wisdom tooth extraction and dental care.
  • Identifying dental professionals who consistently over prescribed opioid medications above CDC guidelines. Prescribing patterns by dental providers improved by 12% following this outreach program.
  • Informing dental plan participants about the risks associated with prescription opioids.

The clinical director of the national opioid policy for United Healthcare, Dr. Michael Mermigas, states that 12% of all opioid prescriptions are written by dental providers who also prescribe 54% of all opioid medications for adolescents who are in a vulnerable age group for addiction.

Informing dental practitioners, parents and patients of these risks and the proper handling, storage and disposal of opioid medications is important to prevent opioid misuse and drug diversion.  Educating dental practices and patients on the proper disposal methods of unused opioid medications is important to limit drug misuse.  Dental practices must follow strict guidelines when disposing of controlled substances and should educate their patients and parents on proper drug disposal practices.

Rx Destroyer™ offers safe and effective drug disposal solutions to dental providers and patients with easy to use containers that neutralize medications to render them non-retrievable.  This eliminates the chance of drug diversion and prevents opioids from being disposed down the drain which is against federal regulations.  Contact us to learn more about safe and effective controlled substance disposal which prevents drug diversion.