American dentists often prescribe more than the recommended supply of opioid painkillers to patients, a new study finds.
Not only that, they are more likely to prescribe more powerful opioids, the researchers found.
In this study, the researchers analyzed data on nearly 550,000 dental visits by adult patients between 2011 and 2015, before U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for pain management were issued in 2016.
More than half of the opioid prescriptions issued by dentists were for longer than the three-day supply recommended by the CDC for acute dental pain management. And 29% of dental patients received more powerful opioids than needed for expected pain after their dental procedures, the findings showed.
The study was published online Feb. 4 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
“Unlike national trends, opioid overprescribing by dentists is increasing. Our results should initiate a call to action to professional organizations and public health and advocacy groups to improve the guidelines for prescribing opioids for oral pain,” said lead investigator Katie Suda, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine.
“As high prescribers of opioids writing prescriptions for a tenth of the opioids dispensed in the U.S., dentists should be included as part of the multifaceted solution needed for the opioid epidemic,” Suda said in a journal news release.
More study is needed to see if opioid prescribing patterns among dentists changed after the CDC tightened prescribing guidelines in 2016, the study authors said.
Dental patients most likely to be overprescribed opioids — those aged 18 to 34, men, those in the South, and those receiving oxycodone — are the same groups at high risk of opioid addiction and overdose, the researchers pointed out.
According to study coauthor Gregory Calip, from the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy, “Future studies and targeted efforts to reduce overprescribing would also be well motivated among older patients and others taking multiple other high-risk medications, such as benzodiazepines.”
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about prescription opioids.
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