Opioid addiction has reached crisis levels in the United States. Addiction to synthetic opioids is a key driver of overdose deaths, which surpassed 100,000 for the first time in 2021 (an increase of 28.5 percent over 2020 levels).1
Research shows that the most significant predictor of long-term opioid use is the number of days supplied in the first opioid prescription an individual receives.2 According to a study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the likelihood of chronic opioid use increased with each additional day of medication supplied starting with the third day.”3 In 2016, the CDC issued guidelines recommending that dental prescribers not prescribe more than three days of opioids for acute dental pain.
The CDC also notes that dentists are among the most common opioid prescribers, and treatment for acute dental pain represents a high percentage of individuals’ first opioid prescriptions, particularly in teens and young adults.4 One retrospective study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that “a substantial proportion” of 16- to 25-year-olds were first exposed to opioids through prescriptions issued by dental providers, often for third molar (also known as “wisdom tooth”) extraction.5 Moreover, research indicates that more than half of dentists were prescribing more than three days of opioids for acute dental pain, exceeding the CDC’s recommendation.6
Additionally, in 2017, the Kentucky General Assembly amended KRS 218A.205 to require the Board of Dentistry to establish regulations to limit prescribing to a three day supply or less for pain as an acute medical condition with exceptions.
Avēsis saw an opportunity to reduce the incidence of long-term opioid use – and by extension, decrease the number of people whose lives are ravaged by substance use disorder – by helping to ensure that dental providers are not overprescribing opioids for acute dental pain.