January JADA looks at changes in opioid prescribing by dentists

Prescriptions dropped by 34.4% from 2015-19


Although most dentists have decreased their opioid prescribing, a small percentage still consistently prescribes at high rates, according to a study published in the January issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

The cover story, “Trajectories of Opioid Prescribing by General Dentists, Specialists, and Oral Maxillofacial Surgeons in the United States, 2015-2019,” looked at national prescribing data from those five years and identified dentists who consistently prescribed opioids at low rates over the study span, dentists who were high opioid prescribers in 2015 and subsequently decreased their prescribing, and dentists who were high prescribers in 2015 and continued to prescribe opioids at high rates.

From 2015-19, the number of opioids prescribed by dentists decreased by 34.4%. While 60% of dentists decreased their prescribing rates by 30%-83%, 3.5% of dentists continued to be high prescribers.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons tended to be part of the moderately and consistently high prescribing groups, possibly reflecting the nature of the procedures they perform, which are more invasive and perceived to be associated with high pain, according to the study.

“Some dentists continue to prescribe opioids at high levels indicating that additional information is needed to better inform policy and clinical decision-making,” said the authors, who noted further understanding of high prescribers' characteristics is necessary for creating targeted interventions.

Other articles in the January issue of JADA discuss vaccine receptivity in the dental clinic, risk factors for endodontically treated teeth and guidelines for cone-beam computed tomography prescription.

Every month, JADA articles are published online at in addition to the print publication. ADA members can access JADA content with their ADA username and password.

Recommended Content


© 2023 American Dental Association