In the United States, dentists are not limited to certain opioids and can prescribe any prescription opioid. This means that dentists and medical professionals can prescribe the same medications, without any restrictions on the type of medication prescribed by the dentist. Adolescents and young adults are more likely to use opioids, which are usually prescribed for use during the weekend or vacation without needing to contact the dentist for pain treatment. To reduce discomfort from dental procedures such as tooth extraction, gums and other dental surgeries, or placement of dental implants, dentists can prescribe medications to relieve pain, including opioids.
Commonly prescribed opioids for dental pain include hydrocodone, oxycodone, and acetaminophen with codeine. A survey of 269 dentists revealed that most (84%) knew that pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen work the same or better than opioids for post-dental procedure pain. These medications require a prescription from a dentist or doctor and include hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codeine. Unfortunately, the American Dental Association (ADA) does not provide guidelines for prescribing opioids, which could help standardize prescribing and reduce over-prescribing.
Some dentists had adopted talking points about pain popularized by the pharmaceutical industry, such as believing that patients with pain couldn't become addicted to opioids. Half of the dentists who reported prescribing opioids said they prescribe enough to leave leftover pills, despite being aware of the risks of opioid diversion and misuse. A new study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association by a team at the University of Michigan shows a key opportunity to reduce patients' use of opioid pain relievers as dentists and their teams across the United States return to their regular schedules after a sharp reduction related to COVID-19.
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