American Dental Association joins fight against nation's opioid epidemic

BELLEVUE, Wis. (WBAY) -- The American Dental Association is joining the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic by making some policy changes Monday.

In an unprecedented move, the ADA came out in support of three new policies to stop the over-prescribing of opioids to patients, two of which Wisconsin dentists are already doing.

The ADA now supports the following:

• Requiring dentists to continue their education on prescribing opioids and other controlled substances.
• Limiting the prescribing of opioids to a 7-day period for acute pain.
• Encouraging all dentists to use the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

Dr. Craig Janssen, of Janssen Dental Clinic, said his staff checks the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database for every patient that walks through his door.

“Anytime we write a prescription for an opioid product, there’s a database that the staff has access to and we can see if the individual is obtaining it from multiple providers,” said Dr. Janssen.

“Wisconsin has been doing that, has been promoting member dentists to use the prescription drug monitoring program since 2012, so this is nothing new for Wisconsin,” said Dr. Paula Crum, Wisconsin Dental Association’s Northeast Region Trustee.

As part of a dentist’s biennial education requirements in Wisconsin, dentists have to complete two hours of continuing education in prescribing opioids and other controlled substances.

Although limiting the amount of opioids prescribed to a 7-day period isn’t required by state law, many dentists are looking for alternative ways to treat acute pain.

“For a lot of my procedures, my go-to is 1,000 milligrams of acetaminophen or Tylenol with 800 milligrams of Ibuprofen. When those are used together, they have a synergistic effect which gets you close to what a Tylenol 3 or Vicodin will do for you,” said Dr. Janssen.

“I really think the oral surgeons have found this, too, that you can accomplish a great deal of pain relief with the use of non-narcotics and almost better pain relief,” said Dr. Crum.

Dr. Janssen said he supports the new recommendations. However, he knows it won’t fix the issue.

“It’s a societal problem that will require more,” said Janssen.

But state Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) said it keeps the fight against opioids moving forward.

“Wisconsin has seen a 20 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions from 2015-2017, so I think we are moving kin the right direction,” said Rep. Nygren. “However, I guess from our standpoint, as long as we’re seeing significant loss in life, we do need to continue our efforts.”

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