Rethinking Opioid Prescribing at the Dentist

One of the insidious components of the opioid crisis is the abundance of the drugs available to the public, and the relative ease some have found in procuring them. One common tactic patients use to obtain these opioids is to make diagnostic appointments for chronic pain issues, agree to a follow up appointment, and then never schedule said appointment. Meanwhile, the patient has left the office with a prescription for opioid pain relief. Repeat this activity a few times and the patient has formed a small stockpile of the drug.

One prevalent setting for obtaining opioids in this fashion is at dental practices, an issue detailed in this National Public Radio article. Dentists rank near the top of the list of prescribers who write scripts for immediate-release opioids. Dental schools and dental offices have begun to change their protocol in order to reverse this trend. One measure they have employed is using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, which have been shown to be as effective as some opioid treatments.

Such a shift in protocol requires thoughtful coordination and communication between dental and pharmacy providers. This collaborative, whole-person approach to health care is absolutely necessary between providers across all fields to make health care a culmination of concurrent assessment and requisite health management rather than isolated treatments and calculations. This approach mirrors Beacon’s mission, as we support close coordination and training across disciplines between providers, and promote alternative, non-opioid methods of pain management.

Learn more in “The impact of pharmacy services on opioid prescribing in dental practice” from the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.