How the Opioid Crisis is Impacting Your Dental Care

opioid-crisis-dental-care

Although as a state we are not alone, New Hampshire currently claims the sad designation as the leader in fentanyl fatalities. What is fentanyl? Basically, heroin on steroids. This synthetic drug is so powerful that an overdose is almost a guarantee.

While that might read like a perfect warning sign, as obvious as a skull and crossbones, it hasn’t done much to deter the upswing in opioid addiction. Whether you or your family has been directly affected by this crisis or you feel completely removed from it, the fact remains that opioid addiction impacts just about everything — including your dental care.

The New Deal with Dental Care

The New York Times was quick to evaluate How a ‘Perfect Storm’ in New Hampshire Has Fueled an Opioid Crisis and took a hard look at the geographic and socioeconomic realities driving it. However, an in-depth article, Dentists: On the Front Line of the Opioid Epidemic, published by the University of Minnesota, reveals just how critical dental professionals are when it comes to combating the opioid crisis.

Featuring Harold Tu, D.M.D., M.D., the article considers safer ways to address pain management, post dental procedures. According to Tu, a former proponent of opioid prescriptions, “Dentists need to be part of the solution in decreasing the number of opioid prescriptions and the number of pills prescribed.”

In fact, he has even gone so far as to establish a non-opioid mandated pain management plan, which was embraced by the School of Dentistry’s Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Of course, that’s outstanding and encouraging news.

But, why dentists? Why is the pressure put on this group of practitioners more than others?

Research published by the University of Minnesota shows that children and teenagers who have been treated with opioids suffer an estimated 33% increased risk of becoming dependent on painkillers during adulthood. Of all the healthcare providers, dentists prescribe the greatest amount of opioids to teenaged patients.

This is in part what changed Tu’s thinking and motivated him to make a difference in how pain is managed in dental practices. So far, it’s worked wonders.

According to these dentists at UMN, “Since the protocol was implemented in October 2016, the School of Dentistry has seen a significant drop in the number of opioid prescriptions and the number of pills per prescription.”

What’s even better is the fact that these dentists “have not seen a significant increase in the number of patient requests for additional pain medication, which suggests the new approach manages pain effectively.”

While Tu’s work is inspiring and perhaps signals a turning of the tides, Minnesota is far from the borders of our beloved “Live Free or Die” state. So, what do these developments mean for practices like Crown Dental and its patients?

A few things…

Where Hope Meets Awareness

Sure, the efforts of Tu and his team in Minnesota evidence hope that the opioid crisis can be mitigated and maybe even made a thing of the past sooner than later. Although there are plenty of miles between Minnesota and New Hampshire, hope knows no boundaries and is arguably shining some light on a potential path forward for all of us.

Moreover, the increasing awareness of the dental industry’s unintended role in the opioid epidemic has led to critical discussions, resulting in an empowerment that dentists everywhere can and should embrace.

As Tu observes, “Dentists can be on the forefront of changing prescribing behavior.”

Not surprisingly, our own Dr. Chen is one such innovator — just the type that our New Hampshire communities need. At Crown Dental, our team is committed to exceptional patient care. For that very reason, our pain management favors Tylenol or Motrin, with prescriptions for Vicodin or Percocet few and far between.

Of course, we are quick to recognize and understand that many of our patients experience anxiety at the very thought of their next cleaning or appointment. But, we are confident in our ability to discuss your fears and put your worries to rest without resorting to unnecessary medications.

Your comfort is our priority and we pride ourselves on providing outstanding customer service — always. The latest part of our service is designed to ensure your safety and keep you clear of that perfect storm. Call our office when you’re ready to discuss how to protect your dental and overall health. 

 

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