Many don’t realize that dentists and oral surgeons have played a significant role in America’s devastating opioid epidemic. But it’s not surprising since a large part of the job is managing acute and chronic pain. In NJ Spotlight, Dean Feldman explores alternatives to drugs like vicodin and percocet and calls for dentists to step up in the fight against opioid abuse. Reform begins when individual providers hold themselves accountable — and continues with today’s dental students, who are keenly aware of opioids’ dangers Feldman contends. Here’s an excerpt:
“It can start with Percocet, prescribed after a wisdom tooth extraction, or a Vicodin refill to dull the pain of an infected tooth. Far too often, a visit to the dentist leads to addiction, to patients scoring heroin when the refills run out, to a teen’s fatal overdose from leftover pills, discovered in the family medicine cabinet.
.. In 2012, dentistry ranked fourth on the list of medical professionals prescribing opioids, accounting for 18.5 million, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Although many providers are now more cautious about prescribing the drugs, in many states there is little to discourage them from business as usual. As oral health providers, we must be on the frontlines of change. That’s why the American Dental Association (ADA) last month became one of the first professional health organizations to issue a policy that restricts prescription opioids and calls for continuing education for providers. In addition to seven-day prescription limits and educational requirements, it recommends programs that monitor patients’ prescription drug history.”