Transcript: The Opioid Epidemic and Its Connection to Dental Care

A still frame zooms in on two dentists wearing surgical masks examining an X-ray. Dozens of round and elliptical white pills litter a white surface. A dentist wearing a surgical mask inserts silver instruments into a patient's open mouth.

ON SCREEN TEXT:            When might someone be

                                             prescribed an opioid

                                             for dental care?

A well-dressed man sits before a patterned backdrop reading "UnitedHealthcare."

TED: In terms of the dental profession...

ON SCREEN TEXT:            Dr. Ted Wong

                                             UnitedHealthcare - Chief Dental Officer

TED: We provide about 12% of opioid scripts total out of the entire health care system. However, when you focus on when wisdom teeth are taken out...

A dentist wearing a surgical mask inserts a silver instrument into a patient's open mouth.

TED: And that's in young--young adults and adolescents, then dentists prescribe 45% of those opioid prescriptions. And in fact, for that age group, generally, the dentist is the first exposure to opioids because of the wisdom teeth procedures. That is a perfect area where the dental profession can do its part to address this nationwide epidemic.

ON SCREEN TEXT:            What questions should you ask

                                             your dentist if you or a family

                                             member is prescribed

                                             an opioid painkiller?

TED: I would advise you to ask the dentist, "Do I really need an opioid?" But in the case if you do need an opioid, then you would want to use...

An outstretched palm holds a half-dozen round white pills.

TED: The lowest number of pills and the lowest dosage possible. That's what we call going low and going slow, where you want the lowest amount possible. The CDC recommends no more than three days of a supply of opioids for acute pain, which is generally where dental treatment will fall into. Ensure that your dentist knows what other drugs you're taking, because there are some drugs that have a bad interaction with opioids.

ON SCREEN TEXT:            Are there alternative medications

                                             to help manage pain following

                                             a dental treatment?

TED: Recent research has indicated that the use of Tylenol in combination with Motrin can be as effective or even more effective than opioids for mild to moderate pain without the addictive effects, so that's a great alternative to using opioids.

ON SCREEN TEXT:            What are some safe ways to

                                             dispose of unused opioids?

TED: If you have unused opioid pills, then you want to give them back to the pharmacy, give it to a law enforcement agency. And the DEA sponsors a drug take-back program twice a year where you can also use that as a means to give back drugs. The pharmacies can supply disposal bags for opioids, which inactivate the ingredients within a opioid pill. You don't have those means, then just take those unused pills and mix them up with water and things like kitty litter or coffee grinds and put them in a sealed bag and you can throw it in the trash.

Ted fades into a white background with blue text and a blue-and-gray "U" logo.

ON SCREEN TEXT:            UnitedHealthcare®