Dental schools in Massachusetts have agreed to begin training their students in opioid abuse prevention and management, WBUR reports.
The state already has reached similar agreements with the heads of the state’s medical schools.
“The fact is that over 80 percent of those prescriptions which are diverted or misused comes from prescriptions written by physicians and dentists,” said Dr. David Keith, a Massachusetts General Hospital oral surgeon who is also on the faculty at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.
He said the agreement is a unique opportunity for the dental schools and the Massachusetts Dental Society to “come together to educate our dentists and advanced dental trainees in the correct prescribing of opioids,” including alternative pain management techniques and proper referral practices to other disciplines.
The agreement between Governor Charlie Baker, the deans of the state’s dental schools, and the Massachusetts Dental Society will cover the 1,800 undergraduates and 550 graduate students studying dental medicine in the state. Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said the group had also talked about how to reach practicing dentists who may be set in their ways of prescribing.
“As a dentist may be the first person a patient sees where strong medications are needed for pain, it is of utmost importance that the clinician understands the significance of assessing that patient for substance misuse risk, while still needing to effectively treat their pain,” Dean Huw Thomas of the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine said in a news release. “It is only through sound dental educational programs and standards that a thorough appreciation of an effective treatment regimen can be established.”