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Opioid Prescribing in Dentistry

Thursday, September 1, 2022 | Posted in GEHA Connection Dental Network News

Opioid Prescribing in Dentistry

A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concluded that in 2019, high-volume dentists accounted for almost half of dental opioid prescriptions and high-risk prescriptions. Quality improvement initiatives with these dentists may be warranted.1


A 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicated a link between filling an opioid prescription after wisdom tooth extraction and long-term opioid use.2 We urge network dental providers to make non-opioid regimens the first choice for pain management. When opioids are needed, experts advise prescribing the lowest possible dose and shortest treatment duration.

High-risk prescriptions are those considered high risk by any of three metrics1:

  • prescriptions to opioid-naïve patients exceeding a three-day supply1
  • prescriptions with daily opioid dosage greater than or equal to 50 morphine milligram equivalents1
  • opioid prescriptions with benzodiazepine overlap1 

Feedback from the GEHA Connection Dental Network to Providers

There was a decrease in average units prescribed in opioid prescription claims among dentists in the network. From January, 2019, to May, 2022, providers prescribed 1.76 fewer units on average, steadily decreasing year after year.


  • Chua KP, Waljee JF, Gunaseelan V, Nalliah RP, Brummett CM. Distribution of Opioid Prescribing and High-Risk Prescribing Among U.S. Dentists in 2019. Am J Prev Med. 2022;62(3):317-325. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2021.09.017
  • Harbaugh CM, Nalliah RP, Hu HM, Englesbe MJ, Waljee JF, Brummett CM. Persistent Opioid Use After Wisdom Tooth Extraction. JAMA. 2018;320(5):504-506. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.9023