Is Your Dentist Over-Prescribing Opioids?

It turns out that dentists are among the top prescribers of opioids in the U.S.

| May 24, 2019

University of Illinois at Chicago – U.S. dentists write 37 times more opioid prescriptions than dentists practicing in England.

And, the type of opioids they prescribe has a higher potential for abuse.

The findings, by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, suggest that measures to reduce opioid prescribing by dentists, who are among the top prescribers of opioids in the U.S., should be discussed by policymakers and professional associations.

The study was, in part, a collaboration between UIC’s Colleges of Pharmacy and Dentistry, and the University of Sheffield.

UIC’s Katie Suda, the corresponding author of the study, says that the degree to which prescribing patterns differ between dentists in the two countries, which have similar oral health and dental utilization, is eye-opening.

Suda, associate professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy at the UIC College of Pharmacy, said:

“To see such a difference between two groups of dentists in countries with similar oral health and use of dentists is an indicator that opioid prescribing practices in the U.S. warrant a second look. This study tells us that efforts to adopt national guidelines for treating dental pain and for promoting conservative opioid prescribing practices among dentists in the U.S. should be a priority and should be included as part of more comprehensive judicious opioid prescribing strategies.”

To study dental provider opioid prescribing practices in the two countries, Suda and her colleagues analyzed nationally-representative databases from both countries of prescriptions dispensed from retail pharmacies, including community and mail service pharmacies, and outpatient clinic pharmacies in 2016, which is considered to be a peak point in the U.S. opioid crisis.

They found U.S. dentists wrote 37 times more opioid prescriptions in 2016 — 1.4 million in the U.S. compared to only 28,000 in England. This finding remained even when the researchers adjusted for differences in population size and number of dentists. Read more.

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