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In 2018, ADA strengthened efforts to tackle opioid abuse crisis

December 05, 2018

By Michelle Manchir

The ADA recognizes that the dental profession can play an important part in reducing opioid use and abuse.

For years, the ADA has advocated to keep opioid pain relievers from harming dental patients and their families and worked to raise professional awareness on medication alternatives to opioids.

In 2018, the ADA intensified these efforts.

In March, the ADA announced an updated policy on opioids, becoming the first major health professional organization to support mandatory continuing education for opioid prescribers with an emphasis on preventing drug overdoses, chemical dependency and drug diversion. The ADA policy also supports limiting the dose and duration of initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain and the use of state prescription drug monitoring programs. This was built on a 2016 ADA policy on the use of opioids, stating that dentists should consider nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory analgesics, or NSAIDS, as the first-line therapy for acute pain management.

The ADA supported legislation signed into law in October, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act, authorizing funding to help get state prescription drug monitoring programs on track and provide new opportunities for continuing education.

The Journal of the American Dental Association in April 2018 published a number of articles related to efficacy of medications for relief from acute dental pain, including a look at dental opioid prescribing, an analysis of sex and race or ethnicity disparities in opioid prescriptions, an overview of systematic reviews on the benefits and harms associated with analgesic medications and an outline covering what a prescription monitoring program can tell dental professionals and why it is important. Find these articles online at by clicking on "Articles & Issues," "Issue Archive" and then selecting "April 2018."

As a public service, the ADA Center for Professional Success website offers free access to information on safe prescribing, online continuing education and other tools for managing dental pain, especially for patients who are at risk for drug overdose or addiction. Visit

The Association has also supported a now-implemented dental school accreditation standard that addresses substance use disorders and the impact of dental prescribing. Questions about drug addiction and pain management are also being developed for the national dental board exams.

For more information about the ADA's efforts on this issue, visit