Dental Schools Add An Urgent Lesson: Think Twice About Prescribing Opioids Listen· 8:15
The opioid epidemic has been fueled by soaring numbers of prescriptions written for pain medication. And often, those prescriptions are written by dentists.
“We’re in the pain business,” says Paul Moore, a dentist and pharmacologist at University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. “People come to see us when they’re in pain. Or after we’ve treated them, they leave in pain.”
Indeed, 12 percent of prescriptions for immediate-release opioids are written by dentists. In 2012, dentists ranked fourth among medical specialties for their opioid prescribing rates, according to data from QuintilesIMS. It has made dentists targets for people “doctor shopping” in order to get opioids.
“I have dentures,” said Shawn Bishop, who is recovering from an opioid addiction at Hope House, a treatment center in Boston. “I had went to get some legitimate work done. And I got some Percocet. I realized that by going to another dentist, I could get some more Percocets.”
Bishop, now 59, recounts the times he teamed up with others to play dentists for their opioid pills.
“He would look at our teeth or Mark’s teeth in particular,” Bishop said. “He would look at his teeth and say, ‘Yeah, we need to take this one, this one, and this one.’ And Mark will always say well, ‘I can’t do it today. Can we make an appointment for next week?’ And then the doctor will say, ‘Yeah, I need to write a prescription of Percocets.’ He kept bad teeth and toothaches just so he can do that, you know?”
For Bishop and his friends, the enterprise of getting opioid pain pills from dentists grew so routine that, he says, he became a professional at it.
“It was almost like they knew their part to play and we knew ours,” he said. “It was like actors in a little sketch there.”