Dental Tribune America

ADA urges Congress to address acute dental pain in its response to opioid crisis

WASHINGTON, U.S.: The American Dental Association (ADA) has recently applauded the U.S. Congress’ response to the opioid crisis but urged the federal government to place a greater emphasis on managing acute pain after one-time surgical procedures, such as third molar extraction. The association has recommended that prescriber education opportunities be coordinated with professional societies and administered by an accredited continuing education provider and that the coursework be dually recognized for state licensure purposes.

In a letter to Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform Elijah Cummings and ranking member Jim Jordan, ADA President Dr. Jeffrey M. Cole and ADA Executive Director Dr. Kathleen T. O’Loughlin told Congress that the ADA remains committed to working with legislators, government agencies and other stakeholders to keep prescription opioid pain medications from becoming a source of harm. They drew particular attention to the association’s 2018 policy in this regard that calls for mandating continuing education and for initial prescribing limits for opioids for dentists.

“Our main criticism of the federal response to the opioid crisis is that it has not sufficiently distinguished pain management in dentistry from pain management in medicine, specifically when it comes to managing acute pain versus chronic pain,” Cole and O’Loughlin wrote. “For that reason, the federal response to the opioid crisis has not been particularly helpful to dentists.”

“For example, the highly touted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain does not address the particulars of managing acute pain following a one-time surgery,” Cole and O’Loughlin noted. “In fact, the document expressly states, ‘Some of the recommendations might be relevant for acute care settings or other specialists, such as emergency physicians or dentists, but use in these settings or by other specialists is not the focus of this guideline.’ ”

At the end of the letter, the ADA leaders thanked Congress for the Providers’ Clinical Support System for Opioid Therapies, which has enabled dentists to gain access to relevant continuing education resources. The association also noted that the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research is currently investigating the biological triggers of dental pain and how to alleviate it using non-narcotic therapies. “Together, the findings will enable us to target our education and outreach messages to dentists and, ideally, lead them to use non-narcotic pain relievers as the first-line therapy for acute pain management,” Cole and O’Loughlin concluded.

All of the ADA’s advocacy efforts can be followed at ada.org/advocacy.

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