Dental Board of California Acts To Educate Dentists On Opioid Prescribing

Responding to the growing danger of opioid addiction stemming from prescription drug abuse, the Dental Board of California (DBC) has voted to require continuing education courses on the prescribing of opioids as a condition of license renewal for dentists.

The new language states “…dentists shall be required to take two units of continuing education on pain management, the identification of addiction, risks of addiction, or in the practices of prescribing or dispensing opioids.”

According to DBC executive officer Karen Fischer, the regulations will allow dentists to take a variety of courses on the subject without a repetitive course requirement.

The vote occurred during the board’s February 8 board meeting.

The board’s action comes as a new study, published in the December 2018 Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed that a substantial proportion of teens and young adults are exposed to opioids through dental clinicians, leading to an increased risk of addiction.

Using a data sample of over 750,000 privately insured patients from across the United States, researchers identified individuals that underwent wisdom teeth extractions. Of that group, nearly 15,000 people between the ages of 16 and 25 received opioids from their dentist.

“Almost 7 percent of these patients had new, persistent use at least three months after the initial prescription and almost 6 percent had an opioid abuse diagnosis,” said the study’s lead author, Alan Schroeder, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, via university press release. “That’s pretty alarming.”

Among wisdom teeth extraction cases that did not receive an opioid prescription, only 0.1 percent got another opioid prescription and 0.4 percent were diagnosed with opioid abuse.

The youngest patients, ages 16 to 18, were significantly more likely to have persistent opioid use than the oldest patients, ages 22 to 25.

To combat the growing epidemic, the American Dental Association (ADA) in 2018 announced an updated policy on opioids. The ADA supports mandatory continuing education for opioid prescribers with an emphasis on preventing drug overdoses, chemical dependency and drug diversion, and supports limiting the dose and duration of initial opioid prescriptions to a duration of no more than seven days, consistent with Centers for Disease Control recommendations.

The Dental Board of California’s website also contains resources for dental clinicians and consumers on the topic of opioid drug abuse, including links to materials for adolescents and locations for substance abuse counseling centers.

Before undergoing any dental procedure, make sure your dental clinician is licensed by visiting the Dental Board’s website and clicking on the License Search button.

The seal of the Dental Board of California.

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