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ADA urges HHS to elevate dental pain management in opioid training activities

September 07, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The ADA has asked the Department of Health and Human Services to better address the nuances of managing dental pain in its opioid prescriber education and training programs.

In comments filed Sept. 6, ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin urged HHS to expand its efforts to include the “nuances of managing acute, short-term pain following a one-time outpatient surgical procedure, particularly in dental settings.”

“As the fifth most frequent prescribers of opioid analgesics, dentists are well-positioned to help keep these drugs from becoming a source of harm,” wrote ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin. “Our main criticism is that the Department’s programs and activities have not sufficiently distinguished pain management in dentistry from pain management in medicine.”

HHS posted a request for information in the Federal Register in July inviting comments about how federal opioid prescriber education and training programs can be improved. The notice highlighted Food and Drug Administration’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy for Extended-Release and Long-Acting Opioids, which introduced new safety measures to reduce the risk of opioid overdose and addiction.

“The guideline is not particularly helpful to dentists because there is rarely, if ever, a need to prescribe an ER/LA opioid to manage acute, short-term dental pain,” wrote Drs. Summerhays and O’Loughlin.

Drs. Summerhays and O’Loughlin also noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, “[E]xpressly states, ‘Some of the recommendations might be relevant for acute care settings or other specialists, such as emergency physicians or dentists, but use in these settings or by other specialists is not the focus of this guideline.’”

“We urge the Department to give more attention to the nuances of managing acute, short-term pain following a one-time outpatient surgical procedure, particularly in dental settings,” concluded Drs. Summerhays and O’Loughlin. “We would be happy to work with you to do so.”

For more information about the Association’s opioids activities, including upcoming webinars and subscriber tips, visit ADA.org/opioids.