Bulletin of Dental Education

The Role of Dental Education in Preventing Opioid Prescription Drug Misuse

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The impact of the opioid epidemic has been felt in communities across all 50 states. Following physicians, dentists are among the leading prescribers of opioids. Curbing the epidemic’s exponential trajectory requires special attention from dental educators. Academic dental institutions are using a variety of methods to mitigate substance misuse, including curriculum and clinical protocol changes. Dental educators are key to teaching best practices in prescribing to the next generation of practicing dentists. 

Dentists have been identified as among the leading prescribers of opioids. Used to alleviate pain, dental practitioners have commonly prescribed opioids after tooth extractions or surgical procedures. The removal of third molars, most routinely performed during the teen years, has received significant focus since dentists are the highest prescribers of opioids for this vulnerable age group. In 2009, dentists wrote 12% of the opioid prescriptions in the United States, and family physicians accounted for 15% of opioid prescriptions. ADEA’s Office of Policy, Research and Diversity has published a policy brief that demonstrates academic dentistry’s contributions to combating the opioid crisis; the four-page publication is available online and will be onsite in printed form at the 2018 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition. 

Published on March 14, 2018

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