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ADA urges opioids task force to include dental care in upcoming report

January 16, 2019

By Jennifer Garvin

Rockville, Md. — The ADA is asking the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to make sure to include dental care in the group's upcoming research plan for preventing opioid use disorder.

The task force was established to examine the peer-reviewed evidence for certain clinical preventive services — including screenings, counseling and preventive medications — and to grade the value of providing those services in primary care settings. It was also tasked with rating the strength of the evidence for certain interventions in preventing opioid use disorder in people not currently using opioids.

In comments filed Jan. 15 on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's Draft Research Plan for Prevention of Opioid Use Disorder, ADA President Jeffrey M. Cole and Executive Director Kathleen T. O'Loughlin said the Association supports the draft plan but urged the committee to make "all deliberate attempts" to include dental care in its examination of clinical preventive services that can be implemented in primary care settings.

"Most dental specialties perform procedures that may result in acute postoperative pain, including general dentists, pediatric dentists, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons," wrote Drs. Cole and O'Loughlin. "And opioids may sometimes be medically prescribed, depending on the nature and type of pain. Despite their multiple roles, however, it should not be lost that general and pediatric dentists are also primary care clinicians. Their primary function is to provide comprehensive oral health care beginning before age one and continue doing so throughout the patient's lifetime, with appropriate referrals as necessary."

In the letter, Drs. Cole and O'Loughlin offered to provide committee members with a wide range of the ADA's opioid resources — including peer-reviewed articles and clinical guidelines — to inform their evidence review.

"We have invested considerable time and resources to raise awareness about the opioid crisis and promote safe and effective pain management strategies in dentistry — with and without opioid pain relievers," wrote Drs. Cole and O'Loughlin, adding that since 2012 the ADA has offered free continuing education to help dentists implement strategies to safely and effectively manage pain for patients at risk for drug overdose or addiction.

The ADA also commended the task force for choosing to rate the strength of the evidence for certain primary care interventions to prevent opioid misuse.

"Your final recommendation(s) will be one more tool that primary care clinicians can use to safely and effectively manage postoperative pain while minimizing the risks associated with opioid analgesics," concluded Drs. Cole and O'Loughlin.

Follow all of the ADA’s advocacy efforts at ADA.org/advocacy.