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Updated NC Dental Opioid Action Plan includes strategies to help dentists prevent misuse of opioids

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released an updated North Carolina Dental Opioid Action Plan to provide clear steps and solutions for dentists and their staff, patients, families and communities to address the opioid epidemic.

The state action plan represents the work of the Dental Opioid Workgroup which includes representatives from the North Carolina Dental Society, public health, dental specialty providers and multiple state and local partners.

“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.”

The NC Dental Opioid Action Plan includes key actions and opportunities dentists can take to reduce opioid misuse, especially among teens and young adults, such as limiting inappropriate access to prescription drugs, increasing community awareness around prevention, and expanding treatment and recovery-oriented systems of care. For example, leftover opioids become a concern if they are shared with friends or family members. The plan stresses that  opioids, if needed, should be prescribed only for a short time following a dental procedure and that patients should turn in any remaining pills to drug takeback programs. The plan is aligned with North Carolina’s overall Opioid and Substance Abuse Action Plan.

Pain medications, including opioids, are often prescribed to manage pain after dental treatments such as wisdom tooth removal, a procedure many people encounter as teens or young adults. Patients who have been prescribed opioids face the potential for misuse in what can become a deadly battle, and the dentist office can be people’s first contact with these substances. In 2016, more than 11.5 million Americans reported misusing prescription opioids in the past year. The CDC says up to one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy struggles with opioid addiction. The strategies outlined in the NC Dental Opioid Action Plan can help prevent misuse.

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