Dentists Need to be Judicious When Prescribing Painkillers

It’s been called the worst drug crisis in our history. In a 2015 report, more than 12 million people were found to have misused prescription opioids. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 100 people die each day from overdoses.

The opioid epidemic is striking individuals of all ages and backgrounds. While dental prescriptions for opioids statistically  account for less than 7% of total opioid prescriptions written in this country, Dr. Fava and Dr. Levine are nonetheless keenly aware of the situation.

We’re always on the alert for the possibility for abuse and monitor the writing of such prescriptions very carefully. We stress non-opioid pain-relief strategies as much as possible. Our methodology is backed by the knowledge that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as well as acetaminophen with caffeine, may be just as effective in addressing dental pain.

The problem, unfortunately, often starts in the medical doctor’s office.  According to a study published this month in Jama Network Open, a peer-reviewed medical journal, deaths attributed to opioids jumped from under 10,000 in 2001 to more than 42,000 in 2016. Opioid use disorders can begin with one simple course of medication after routine procedures. So it’s important that we educate our patients accordingly.

We know that male patients statistically account for more than 2/3 of all opioid-related deaths. And we’re also aware that the rate of opioid deaths among older patients is growing at an alarming rate. Staying on top of the situation means taking the extra time, like we always do, to really get to know our patients—not just their teeth. We would never want to see a patient in pain. But we want to be part of the opioid solution, not the problem.