Background: The prescribing practices of dental professionals may play an important role in the opioid epidemic. The authors performed a scoping review of the current original research literature on dental professionals’ prescribing practices for opioid analgesics published from 2000 through 2017.
Types of studies reviewed: With the use of a modified Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses approach, the inclusion criteria entailed published articles written in English that had an opioid focus, had a dental health care professional prescriber, entailed a US setting, were peer reviewed, had an identified data source, were not review articles, and were not opinion articles. Five databases were searched to identify relevant literature.
Results: Of 221 articles, 18 met the inclusion criteria. Eight distinct and mutually exclusive themes emerged from these studies: impact of patient demographic characteristics on opioid prescribing, comparison of opioid prescribing by different provider type, quantity of opioids prescribed and consumed, types of opioids prescribed by dental professionals, assessment of self-reported opioid prescribing, opioid prescriptions by procedure, impact of pharmacy integration into dental practice, and implementation of risk mitigation strategies.
Conclusions and practical implications: There is a surprising paucity of research that investigated the prescribing patterns of dentists. Available research suggests that dental practice does not always align with proposed guidelines for opioid prescribing. Some studies that explored interventions found changes in prescribing, suggesting the potential benefit of developing practical strategies targeted to dental providers who prescribed opioids.