Delaware Public Media

First State working to reduce opioid prescriptions among dentists

Apr 2, 2019

In its latest move to help stem the opioid crisis, Delaware’s Division of Public Health is trying to reduce opioid prescriptions in First State dentist offices.

The state is partnering with the Delaware State Dental Society to distribute pamphlets and posters to dentist offices across Delaware to raise awareness of the addictive nature of opioid pain medication.

“By no means would we ever try to tell the prescriber how to treat pain, because certainly, that is always going to be a decision best managed by the provider and the patient on their own,” said Dr. Nick Conte, Dental Director for DPH’s Bureau of Oral Health and Dental Services. “What we’re really trying to do is make sure everyone has the best and most current information available.”

Officials cite data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows dentists are the third most common prescriber of opioids behind Internal Medicine and Family Medicine practices.

Conte adds that while those practices prescribe more opioids, dentists often prescribe to younger patients.

“We’re frequently prescribing to teenagers, young adults as they’re having wisdom tooth extraction. This can often represent their first exposure to opioids,” said Conte. “So it’s important for us to really pay attention to who really needs opioids and where pain can be managed by other means.”

CDC data also shows about 80% of the people who use heroin, first used prescription opioids.

Conte says hydrocodone and oxycodone are the most common opioids prescribed after dental procedures, but he adds there are many instances where over-the-counter medication like Motrin or Aleve can work better to treat acute pain.

He says the educational campaign is funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration grant.

There were 419 suspected drug overdose deaths in Delaware in 2018. That number has gone up in the First State for the past six years. The CDC ranks Delaware with the sixth highest overdose rate in the country.