As you may or may not know, dentist visits are usually followed by an opioid prescription as painkiller. However, there’s a reason why dentists are trying really hard to change that.
Paul Moore, a dentist and pharmacologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine has stated that most patients go to the dentist once they’re already in pain, and after receiving the treatment, the pain will most likely linger for a few more days, at least. Henceforth, painkillers are often prescribed. This practice has significantly fueled the ongoing opioid epidemic.
Since 12 percent of the opioid prescriptions are provided by dentists, many people targets dentists as easy way to get access to opioids. A man, went even as far to admit that he and his friend would maintain bad teeth and toothaches in order to get Percocet prescriptions. Going doctor by doctor to get more prescriptions of Percocet and other opioid pills, maintaining their vice at the expense of unsuspecting dentists.
Charlie Baker’s Massachusetts governor office, passed a law last year in order to reduce opioid prescription abuse and prevent drug misuse. Further, Dental schools in the state have become required to teach a set of core competencies to the students who aspire to get their degree. They are compelled to prove how prepared and willing they are to consider non-opioid treatment options.
After spending decades criticizing healthcare providers for not offering a pain treatment that was strong enough for their patients and failing to provide sufficient pain medication, trends have started to change and dentists are getting back up to speed about alternatives to opioids. Luckily, anti-inflammatory and non-steroidal drugs, such as Advil, Aleve, Naproxen are just as effective as Vicodin or Percocet.
For the new generations of dentists, the challenge is in learning how to think about pain differently and how to appropriately prescribe opioids. In fact, the Harvard School of Dental Medicine is teaching its students how to approach pain a world away from opioids and experiment instead with neuropathy drugs, stretching exercises, meditation, non-opioid medications and other techniques until all the options are exhausted.
However, this methods are directly related to each individual patient, given that so far, the evidence is not conclusive and the treatments that work on one patient might not necessarily work on the next one. Additionally, the way dentistry students perceive pain is quickly changing, leading them to try and beat the opioid crisis.
On a national level, dentistry has started to change too, with dentists being more careful to avoid overprescribing pain medication. Furthermore, the Commission on Dental Accreditation is changing the standards for all dental schools to order all graduates to be more competent in assessing for substance use disorder.