Monday, April 2, 2018

Getting to the Root of the Problem: Reducing Overuse of Opioids for Oral Pain

Opioid abuse and related deaths have reached epidemic proportions across the country, garnering attention from all levels of government, health care payers, clinicians, and the public. While growing attention has helped mobilize resources to fight the epidemic, often lost in the headlines is the considerable extent to which dental disease and the health care system’s response to it are fueling the crisis.

Sounding a clarion for Medicaid and public health leaders, dentists prescribe 12 percent of immediate-release opioids in the U.S. and are the most frequent prescribers of opioids for individuals ages 10 to 19 — often after wisdom teeth extractions. Adolescents exposed to opioids have a 33 percent higher risk of abusing prescription painkillers later in life. Further, less than half of opioids prescribed after surgical dental extractions are used by the patient — leaving these drugs for potential misuse or diversion to others.

This new CHCS blog post offers six opportunities for Medicaid and public health agencies to address oral health-based drivers of opioid abuse and promote safe prescribing by providers.

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