An Ache to Remember

By Amber Chittenden, VP of Client Engagement

The opioid crisis has been increasingly problematic and difficult for employers to combat. Earlier this year, Apex hosted its “Tackling Opioids in the Workplace” event, the first in our Employers’ Survival Guide Series.  As the startling statistics of opioid abuse were presented, attendees and panelists exchanged ideas and discussed numerous solutions to help overcome the effects of opioid use in the workplace.

The opioid issue is not going away – and it isn’t something to be ignored or forgotten. Our team continues to monitor what’s happening in the opioid space and develop proactive strategies to help employers in the battle against opioid abuse.

One trend we’ve uncovered: the use of opioids following dental procedures.

According to a recent study from the National Institute of Health, approximately 12% of all opioid prescriptions in the U.S. are related to dental procedures. In addition, opioids were prescribed 28% of the time following dental procedures, even after analgesic use was recommended.

The good news? We’re seeing some innovative approaches to help combat unnecessary use of opioids following dental procedures.

New programs from dental carriers.

New programs are emerging from dental carriers designed to address the opioid crisis. One example we’ve seen at Apex: A dental carrier reviewing claims to identify potential inappropriate prescribing behaviors by dentists and collaborating with the PBM to gather comparative data and assess potential impact. Members are then educated through an outreach program. I’m confident we’ll continue to see innovative solutions like this evolve from carriers in the future.

Alternative pain management options.

Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) alone or combined with acetaminophen are better at easing acute dental pain than opioids, according to new research by the School of Dental Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Prescribing narcotics like opioids is being considered a last resort for pain relief.

New training approaches for pain management.

According to the American Dental Education Association, dentistry schools have been reassessing and updating pain management curricula and clinical protocols to ensure graduates are safe and knowledgeable prescribers. Changes include using alternative methods for pain management, such as NSAIDs, and recognizing the symptoms of addiction and substance misuse problems.

As Indiana drug czar Jim McLelland mentioned during our opioid event in May, while we’ve made progress, there’s still much work to be done to combat the opioid epidemic. At Apex, looking at opioid abuse from a dental perspective is just one way we’re chipping away at the opioid epidemic to help employers address and overcome this issue in their workplaces. Our team will continue to look for trends and communicate findings to employers on this topic, so stay tuned.

If you’re not sure what programs to institute at your workplace or you’d like assistance with policies or education regarding opioid misuse awareness, contact Apex HR Consultant Brooke Salazar, JD, PHR. See this article for more information.

Interested in learning more about the dental health trends we uncovered during our recent benchmarking survey? Click here >>

Looking for new ways to offer dental benefits and reduce costs for your organization? Contact an Apex advisor today >>