ADA Responds to Study of Excessive Opioid Prescriptions in Dentistry

Dentistry Today


The ADA says that it is aware of recent research from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Sheffield noting that dentists in the United States prescribe 37 times more opioids than their peers in England and adds that it continues to be dedicated to raising awareness and taking action on the opioid public health crisis.

Since 2011, the ADA says, it has advocated to keep opioid pain relievers from harming dental patients and their families and has worked to raise awareness of alternatives. The ADA also notes that growing research supports its policy of encouraging the use of NSAIDs alone or in combination with acetaminophen instead of opioids as first-line therapy.

To combat opioid abuse, the ADA adds that it has urged its 163,000 member dentists to increase their efforts in preventing 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 reports. 

In March 2018, the ADA adopted a policy related to opioid prescribing by dentists for acute pain that supports: 

  • Mandatory continuing education regarding 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 using prescription drug monitoring programs to promote the appropriate use of opioids and deter misuse and abuse

In April 2018, researchers from the ADA Science Institute, Case Western University, and the University of Pittsburgh concluded that NSAIDs alone or in combination with acetaminophen are generally more effective and are associated with fewer side effects than opioids, supporting the ADA’s 2016 policy statement that dentists should consider NSAIDs as first-line therapy.

The ADA also has developed patient-friendly resources to inform the public that over the counter medication often can effectively relieve short-term dental pain. Working together with physicians, pharmacies, policymakers, and the public, the ADA believes it is possible to end the opioid health crisis.

Related Articles

US Dentists Prescribe 37 Times More Opioids Than English Dentists

Touro Implements Strict Prescription Policy to Reduce Opioid Use

Dentist Pleads Guilty to Running Oxycodone Conspiracy