|The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated the state Dental Opioid Action Plan to provide guidelines to help people avoid addiction.|
After a dental procedure, some patients are prescribed medications like opioids to manage pain.
Amid the opioid epidemic, health officials are developing new strategies to prevent patients from opioid misuse. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated the state Dental Opioid Action Plan to provide guidelines for dentists, staff, patients, families, and communities to follow.
“Many people’s first contact with opioids happens when they are prescribed as pain relief after common dental procedures like wisdom tooth removal,” said Mark Benton, NCDHHS Deputy Secretary for Health. “This plan supports the state’s dental providers with actionable steps to both prescribe opioids judiciously and connect their patients to community resources. It’s an integral piece of the department’s work to combat the opioid epidemic.”
In 2016, more than 11.5 million Americans reported misusing prescription opioids in the previous year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. One in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy struggles with opioid addiction. In 2019, there were 149 deaths and 640 emergency department visits for opioid overdoses in Mecklenburg County, according to the nonpartisan Care4Carolina coalition.
The NC Dental Opioid Action Plan includes representatives from North Carolina Dental Society, public health, dental providers, and multiple state and local partners. The plan includes clear actions and opportunities dentists can take to decrease opioid misuse among teens and young adults.
After wisdom tooth removal, teens or young adults often have their first encounter with opioids and patients with prescriptions are at risk of misuse in what can become a deadly battle.
Strategies outlined in the state action plan can help prevent the problem, for instance, by restricting inappropriate access to prescription drugs, prevention awareness, and widening treatment and recovery-oriented systems of care.
Leftover opioids raise a concern if they are shared with friends or family members. The plan stresses that if this form of drug is needed, it should only be prescribed for a short period of time after dental work and patients should turn in any remaining pills to drug takeback programs.
This plan is aligned with North Carolina’s Opioid and Substance Abuse Action Plan.
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Aaliyah Bowden, who covers health for The Post, is a Report For America corps member.