ADA Highlights Opioid Policies Designed to Curb Misuse and Abuse

Dentistry Today


Noting recently published research connecting opioid prescriptions for dental procedures to risks of abuse and misuse among adolescents and young adults, the ADA also notes that a growing body of research supports its policy that dentists should prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) alone or in combination with acetaminophen over opioids as first-line therapy. 

The ADA further says that it continues to be dedicated to raising awareness and tacking action on the opioid public health crisis. To combat opioid misuse and abuse among adolescents and adults alike, the organization has urged all 161,000 member dentists to double down on their efforts to prevent opioids from harming patients and their families.

Dentists have written nearly half a million fewer opioid prescriptions over a five-year period, from 18.5 million in 2012 to 18.1 million in 2017, the ADA says. Though this decrease represents progress, the ADA adds, there is more that dentists can do. In March 2018, the ADA adopted a policy related to opioid prescriptions by dentists that supports:

  • Mandatory continuing education about prescription of opioids and other controlled substances
  • Statutory limits on opioid dosage and duration of no more than seven days for the treatment of acute pain, consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evidence-based guidelines
  • Dentists registering with and utilizing prescription drug monitoring programs or PDMPs to promote the appropriate use of opioids and deter misuse and abuse                                    

“This new policy demonstrates the ADA’s firm commitment to help fight the country’s opioid epidemic while continuing to help patients manage dental pain,” said ADA president Joseph P. Crowley, DDS.

Along with Case Western University and the University of Pittsburgh, the ADA has found that NSAIDs alone or in combination with acetaminophen are generally more effective and are associated with fewer side effects compared to opioids. These findings support the ADA’s 2016 policy statement encouraging dentists to consider NSAIDs as the first-line therapy for acute pain management.

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