If you have ever had a wisdom tooth pulled or a root canal, you know that one of the worst feelings is the pain once the Novocain starts to wear off. In the past, dental providers would readily prescribe an analgesic such as Percocet or Vicodin to help a patient through the initial days of pain.
However, times have changed and with a nation facing an opioid addiction epidemic, the dental community has to reassess its pain management protocol. The University Of Colorado School Of Dental Medicine is doing its part to address the problem.
Dentistry and the Opioid Epidemic
Dental providers do not have chronic pain patients to manage, nor do they prescribe medications for extended periods of time, so how large a role could they play in solving the opioid epidemic? A study in the Journal of the American Dental Association (ADA) approximates that dentists write about 12 percent of the prescriptions for immediate-release opioids, placing them only below primary care physicians. Their role is significant in determining the access of opioids to patients and their education concerning prescription drugs.
Here are some of the factors dentists have to consider when treating patients:
- Are they getting the recommended dose of medication for the diagnosis? The ADA study mentioned above stated that when practitioners prescribed opioids after an extraction, 41 percent expect their patients to have medication left over. The study also noted that patients were taking pain medications for days longer than good clinical practice would recommend.
- Is this patient drug-seeking? Unfortunately, some patients are just looking for medication and are cunning in getting prescriptions from different sources. In a recent CDC study,
over 55 percent of fatal overdoses occurred in patients whose deaths were tied to multiple sources (prescribers or pharmacies) or high dosages.
- What other alternatives to opioids will be as effective? Due to efforts of many on the medical and dental side, there have been strides made in determining successful alternative treatments to opioids for pain management.
The Future of Dental Prescribing in Colorado
According to an analysis by the Colorado Health Institute, in 2014 Colorado had an overdose death rate of 16.3 per 100,000 residents, higher than the national average of 14.7 drug-related deaths per 100,000. In an effort to stem the tide, along with qualified drug rehab in Colorado, dental schools and other organizations are offering trainings and materials to help dentists tackle the issue.
The University Of Colorado School Of Dental Medicine offers continuing education programs for current dentists. They also share research concerning opioid alternatives and the corresponding protocol with practitioners. Patients often have difficulty adjusting their thinking regarding their medication needs, so the school also relates best practices for discussing pain and medications with patients.
The American Dental Association Catalog offers the ADA Practical Guide to Substance Use Disorders and Safe Prescribing, as well as free webinars to dental practitioners concerning modern drug-seeking behavior.
Research on dental prescribing practices is still limited, but these academics are quickly gaining ground in the fight against the opioid trend. They are helping dental providers in Colorado be better prepared to identify their patients’ needs and dispense medications in a safe way. If this effort continues, dental and medical providers will help reverse the devastation wrought by drug addiction and overdose.
If you have become addicted to opioids, please contact us today. We are here to help.