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Some Dental Schools Training Students to Reduce Opioid Painkiller Prescriptions

Some Dental Schools Training Students to Reduce Opioid Painkiller Prescriptions

Some dental schools are training their students to reduce the amount of opioid painkillers they prescribe for their surgical patients.

Dentists are among the leading prescribers of opioids, especially for surgical tooth extractions, NBC News reports.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine is training students to give their surgical patients detailed explanations of the best way to take opioids and dispose of them. They give patients a two-week prescription that is not refillable.

“I think we find today that prescribing needs to include both education as well as dispensing,” said Dr. Paul Moore, professor of pharmacology and anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. “We teach all of our students here if you’re going to write a prescription for an opioid it is important to follow our checklist that includes the kinds of information that you need to provide that patient.”

As many as half of all dental patients can get effective pain relief from over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, according to Dr. Moore. “Maybe 50 percent of the patients will need a prescription,” he said. “We just don’t know which 50 percent and we have to provide a prescription for people who may or may not need it.”

A recent study of opioids and dentists found that within a week of tooth extraction, 42 percent of patients filled a prescription for an opioid medication. The most commonly dispensed opioid was hydrocodone (78 percent of all prescriptions), followed by oxycodone (15 percent).

The highest number of opioid painkiller prescriptions was for teens ages 14 to 17, followed closely by young adults ages 18 to 24. The analysis of 2.7 million patients was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“There are sky rocketing rates of opioid abuse,” said study author Dr. Brian Bateman of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

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