Association of opioid prescriptions from dental clinicians for adolescents and young adults with subsequent opioid use and abuse

New research suggests that many adolescents and young adults are exposed to opioids through dental clinicians. The retrospective cohort study, which looked at claims data for individuals aged 16–25 years, found that 12.9% of about 754,000 patients with continuous enrollment in 2015 received one or more opioid prescriptions that year.

New research suggests that many adolescents and young adults are exposed to opioids through dental clinicians. The retrospective cohort study, which looked at claims data for individuals aged 16–25 years, found that 12.9% of about 754,000 patients with continuous enrollment in 2015 received one or more opioid prescriptions that year. Of those patients, 30.6% (29,791) received prescriptions supplied by a dental clinician. The index dental opioid cohort—created after excluding for previous complex chronic conditions, hospitalizations in the past week, and opioid prescriptions or diagnoses of opioid abuse with a year of the index opioid prescription—included 14,888 individuals. In that group, 6.9% received another opioid prescription 90–365 days later, vs. 0.1% of 29,776 opioid-nonexposed controls. Additionally, 5.8% of the index dental opioid group experienced one or more subsequent health care encounter with an opioid abuse-related diagnosis, compared with 0.4% of the opioid-nonexposed controls. "The findings of our study suggest that opioid-naive patients who receive an opioid prescription from a dental clinician may be at risk for persistent opioid use and abuse," the researchers conclude. "Given the potential contribution of third molar extractions to the opioid epidemic, heightened scrutiny regarding this procedure and opioid prescriptions associated with postoperative care is warranted."