ADA announces policy to combat opioid abuse

The nation’s largest dental association is calling on dental professionals to help combat the “opioid epidemic,” according to a news release from the American Dental Association.

Dentists with appropriate licenses may prescribe opioids, or narcotic pain relievers, and do so most often for management of short-term pain from things like severe tooth decay, root canals or getting teeth pulled.

In a March news release, the American Dental Association’s president, Dr. Joseph P. Crowley said he wants dentists “everywhere to double down on their efforts to prevent opioids from harming our patients and their families.”

Opioids work by making one’s brain feel like pain is decreasing and making the body release a hormone called dopamine, which causes one to feel pleasure. This can lead to addiction, according to the ADA’s consumer website,

Abusing opioids is dangerous. One large, misused dose can cause severe respiratory depression and death, according to MouthHealthy.

In its March announcement, the ADA said it supports limiting dentists’ opioid prescriptions for acute pain to seven days, which is consistent with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The Association also announced a policy supporting continuing education for dentists in prescribing opioids and other controlled substances. It also encourages dentists to use databases monitoring opioid prescriptions that help flag people requesting multiple prescriptions.

Physician and other medical professionals write most opioid prescriptions for patients to help them manage pain. However, dentists in 1998 were the top specialty prescribers of opioid pain relievers, accounting for 15.5 percent of all opioid prescriptions in the U.S. That number fell to 6.4 percent by 2012, according to the ADA.

For more information from the ADA about opioids, visit and search for “opioids” or visit

© 2018 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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