Dentists Continue to Prescribe Opioids to Adolescents for Pain Relief Interview with:
Adriane Fugh-Berman MD
Professor, Dept. of Pharmacology and Physiology
Georgetown University Medical Center  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: The first exposure of adolescents and young people to opioids is through dentists, who frequently prescribe opioids after dental procedures. Dentists are the highest prescribers of opioids to patients under 18. We conducted a national survey of dentists and received 269 responses from 30 states and 2 territories.

Four of five dentists knew that  that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-acetaminophen combinations are equally as effective or more effective than opioids, but 43% still  regularly prescribed opioids. There was more caution about prescribing opioids  to adolescents aged 11 through 18 years, but only half ( 48%) reported they were less likely to prescribe opioids to young adults 19 -25 years (compared to adults over 25). This is concerning  because adolescents and young adults under 25 are more likely to develop opioid use disorder than adults over 25. 

One-half of those who reported prescribing opioids reported prescribing more opioids than needed, which would result in leftover pills. Leftover pills  pose a risk for later misuse. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Opioids are not necessary after dental procedures and shouldn’t be prescribed or used. Dentists should be prescribing NSAIDS, which are safer and better. The dental community  needs to implement the knowledge it has to help protect people, especially adolescents and young adults, from addiction. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Perhaps future research could explore why dentists are prescribing opioids despite evidence  of their  harms and the availability of a superior alternative. 

Any disclosures? Yes. I am a paid expert witness in litigation regarding pharmaceutical marketing practices, including in cases regarding opioids. 


Survey of opioid prescribing among dentists indicates need for more effective education regarding pain management
Heron, Matthew J. et al.
The Journal of the American Dental Association, Volume 0, Issue 0

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