Virginia dentists taking steps to address overprescribing opioids to kids


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia dentists are taking steps to address a nationwide problem with overprescribing opioids to kids.

WAVY sister station WRIC 8News brought the issue to light last month.

A pediatric study found when teens make an emergency visit to the dentist, 60% of the time they’re walking out with a prescription for powerful painkillers. Virginia dentists told 8News they no longer want to be a part of the problem, they want to be part of the solution.

Doctor Sam Galstan, a Chesterfield dentist and president of the Virginia Dental Association, says that’s changing in the Commonwealth.

“The days of someone coming with pain and leaving with an opioid prescription every time, those are in the past,” said Galstan.

With the support of the Virginia Dental Association, the General Assembly recently passed legislation limiting the length of opioid prescriptions and mandating all opioid prescriptions be E-scribed. E-scribed means they must be linked to the state’s PMP, Prescription Monitoring Program.

“All the prescriptions that are logged in through Virginia would go through that clearing house,” explained Galstan.

It allows dentists to see a patient’s prescription history.

“You get the patient profile and you see what they had,” Galstan said.

Virginia dentists are also changing their approach. Dentists are now being encouraged to have open conversations with parents before any procedure begins and to consider less potent pain management options first, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. When it’s really necessary, opioid prescriptions are to be limited to just seven days.

Addiction therapists agree communication is key. They encourage parents to ask questions. Nani Moskal, a substance abuse clinician for adolescents in Richmond told 8News, “Somebody who is getting their wisdom teeth removed does not need a 30 day prescription of opioids.”

Doctor Martin Buxton, a psychiatrist with Pinnacle Treatment Centers like the Family Counseling Center in Richmond, has treated addicts who got hooked on opioids after a prescription. Dr. Buxton says parents should ask, “Can you get us into a faster appointment to see an oral surgeon or see a dentist so we don’t have to stay on these pills for days?”

In addition, the Virginia Board of Dentistry now requires at least two hours of continuing education in pain management every two years for any dentist who prescribes opioids.

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