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NADP Statement on the Opioid Crisis and Role of Dental Plans

Community leaders and policymakers at the state and federal level are exploring strategies to address the opioid crisis. The following are facts to keep in mind when considering the role for dental plans:

  • Dentists with a current DEA license may prescribe opioids and do so most often for management of acute (short-term) pain such as severe tooth decay, extraction of teeth, particularly “wisdom teeth,” and root canals.
  • An April 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) includes data on opioid prescribing in dentistry and research on alternative pain relief options.
  • Regarding insurance, most dental plans include low deductibles and cover preventive benefits at 100%. The emphasis on prevention in dental insurance reflects the fact that the two primary dental diseases—tooth decay and gum disease—are both preventable.
  • Routine dental visits and preventive care decreases the incidence of dental disease, ER visits for dental pain and complex dental procedures that may result in prescriptions for pain medication, including opioids.  
  • Dental insurance does not cover prescription drugs, so carriers aren’t directly involved in adjudicating or paying pharmacy claims. As such, dental insurance carriers do not track or follow provider drug prescribing practices.
  • Dental insurers do distribute information to dentists in their networks, disseminating information on best practices in opioid prescribing and dental pain management to reinforce recommendations of government and the profession. This is an important role dental carriers can play in stemming the opioid epidemic.

For more information, please contact Rene Chapin at rchapin@nadp.org or 972 458-6998 x110.