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Should Dentists Be Concerned About Opioid Abuse?

The growth of opioid abuse has brought about a new wave of attention to prescription drug abuse. As a dentist, it is important that you are informed of how this epidemic could affect dental treatment plans.

When it comes to opioid pain medication abuse, the facts are staggering. Not only is opioid abuse on the rise, but the growth of this destructive trend has brought about a new wave of attention to prescription drug abuse.

The Center for Disease Control reports that U.S. healthcare providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012 – that number is “enough for every adult American to have a bottle of pills.”

According to Michael Bundy, PharmD, DMD, MD, in a 2015 presentation to the California Dental Association, 12 percent of all the immediate-release opioid prescription drugs are written by dentists in the U.S. – a number just slightly less than (by) family physicians.

Who is affected by the opioid epidemic?

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll exploring the topic of prescription drug abuse discovered that 56% of Americans “report a personal connection to painkiller abuse, because they either know someone who has taken a painkiller that wasn’t prescribed to them; have been addicted to painkillers themselves or know someone who has; or know someone who died from an overdose.”

The Foundation goes on to explore demographic details of those who reported a connection to painkiller abuse (either through abusing painkillers themselves, or knowing someone who has). The November 2015 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that white, young and middle-aged populations are more likely than other groups to have a connection to prescription painkiller abuse.

Opioids in the dental treatment plan

The American Dental Association (ADA) has a position statement regarding the use of opioids in the dental treatment plan. While adopted in 2005, it is very much relevant with today’s epidemic. A planned update to the position is to be released in 2017.

PSIC hosted a webinar on May 10, 2016, which is archived on our website. The webinar covers effective practices for addressing patient pain complaints in a way that will minimize Board actions. The webinar also offers practical guidance for what to do should you receive a Board complaint.

Understanding who is affected by the opioid epidemic and why, coupled with the information from the webinar and the ADA position statement, will help your practice play a role in fighting the opioid abuse epidemic. 

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