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American Dental Association Statement on Opioids

February 27, 2018

Contact Information:
mediarelations@ada.org

CHICAGO — The American Dental Association is committed to multi-disciplinary efforts to end the tragic scourge of opioid abuse that has devastated families and communities.

In 2016, opioids (including prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl) killed more than 42,000 people — more than any year on record.  Forty percent of those deaths involved a prescription pain reliever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This doesn't count the 1.8 million Americans (including 152,000 teenagers) who reported abusing or being dependent on prescription pain relievers, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

For the last six years (since 2012), the ADA has been offering free online continuing education on safe and effective opioid prescribing for dental pain. The next webinar, scheduled for April 25, explores how dentists can use their Drug Enforcement Administration prescribing authorities to reduce the need for “just in case” prescriptions for dental pain. 

The ADA also produced a clinical reference manual (2015) with techniques for managing dental pain for those who may be at risk for substance dependence. It covers the complexities of modern pain management in dentistry, including the nature of drug addiction, ways to screen patients for potential substance use disorders, and techniques for motivating at-risk individuals to seek appropriate treatment. 

More recently (2016), the Association updated its statement on the use of opioids to treat dental pain. Among other things, the statement urges dentists to follow CDC’s opioid prescribing guideline for chronic pain, use their state’s prescription drug monitoring program, complete continuing education, and, above all, use non-narcotics as the first-line therapy for acute dental pain. 

The ADA has also sought to raise awareness about the misuse and abuse of opioid analgesics by partnering with a number of outside organizations, including the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the United States Surgeon General. And we are now pressuring Congress to fund a 2016 law authorizing a number of activities to help prevent opioid misuse and abuse. 

The ADA is continuing to explore whether the CDC opioid prescribing guideline for chronic pain is sufficient for a profession that most often deals with acute pain. We are exploring how non-narcotics can be better used to manage dental pain. And we are exploring novel ways of increasing demand for continuing education, expanding the use of prescription drug monitoring programs, and more. 

We can all do more to keep opioids from becoming a source of harm, and the ADA is committed to doing just that. Working together with physicians, pharmacists, other healthcare professionals, policy makers and the public, the ADA believes it is possible to end this tragic and preventable public health crisis that has been devastating our families and communities. 

About the ADA

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 161,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit ADA.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website MouthHealthy.org