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Dental schools in Massachusetts to provide opioid abuse prevention training

Approximately 3.5 million wisdom tooth extractions are done in the United States each year by practicing oral and maxillofacial surgeons, as highlighted by the American Dental Association (ADA) in 2011. Following the procedure, the patients are prescribed with a month of narcotic pain medication therapy when in essence, two weeks of pain medications should suffice. Despite the availability of non-narcotic options which are relatively safer and more effective, dentists are on an opioid-prescribing spree.

In addition, approximately 61 percent of the American population belonging to the age group of 14-17 years receive opioid prescriptions from dentists, following the extraction of the third molar. Dr. David Keith, oral surgeon of a Massachusetts General Hospital and faculty at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine said, “The fact is that over 80 percent of those prescriptions which are diverted or misused comes from prescriptions written by physicians and dentists.”

As the U.S. is already grappling with a severe opioid abuse epidemic, dental schools of Massachusetts have come together and agreed to start training their students in opioid therapy, to prevent future incidents of opioid abuse. An agreement to this accord has been made between Governor Charlie Baker, the deans of the state’s dental schools and the Massachusetts Dental Society. The following steps would be taken in accordance with the agreement.

  • Educate dentists and advanced dental trainees in appropriate prescribing of opioids.
  • Cover 1800 undergraduates and 550 graduate students under this agreement.
  • Train dental trainees and students on alternate pain management techniques and referral practices.
  • Approach and train veteran practicing dentists who are established in their practices and have set standards for prescribing opioids for pain management.

Opioid fatalities in Massachusetts

As per a report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the number of confirmed cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2015 represented a 20 percent increase over those in 2014. The report also stated that cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths in the state in 2014 represented a 43 percent increase over similar cases reported in 2013.

According to the report, in 2015, the estimated rate of unintentional opioid overdose deaths was 25.8 deaths per 100,000 residents that represented a 32 percent increase from 19.5 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2014.

Recovery road map

One of the leading prescribers of opioid analgesics, dentists, prescribe immediate action opioids, often following a surgical tooth extraction. This is the reason, why along with the policymakers and other healthcare professionals, dentists must also actively participate in the ongoing campaign of minimizing opioid-related abuse and fatalities by aggressive patient counseling, careful assessment, along with substance abuse referral, as and when implicated. It is imperative that they use prescription monitoring programs without fail.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates that nearly 48 million people aged 12 years and above have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime. This amounts to 20 percent of the U.S. population. The prescription drug abuse that has besieged a major part of the American population is mainly attributed to growing opioid dependence which affects nearly 5 million people in the U.S., causing nearly 17,000 deaths in 2011. As per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), opiate overdose deaths have increased by 265 percent in men and 400 percent in women since 1999.

Opioids are prescribed to patients to relieve them from pain. Over a period, people continue to use the medications only for additional relief which aggravates the risk of opioid addiction. If you or your loved one is addicted to opioids and is looking for help, contact the 24/7 Recovery Helpline for more information on best drug rehab centers available in your vicinity. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-441-4405 or chat online for further advice on addiction treatment centers in the U.S.

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