Sex and race or ethnicity disparities in opioid prescriptions for dental diagnoses among patients receiving Medicaid

J Am Dent Assoc. 2018 Apr;149(4):246-255. doi: 10.1016/j.adaj.2018.02.010.


Background: The objective of this study was to identify specific factors (sex, race or ethnicity, and health care provider type) associated with patient receipt of an opioid prescription after a dental diagnosis.

Methods: The authors used Medicaid claims dated from January 1, 2013, through September 30, 2015, for 13 US states in this study. The authors identified oral health-related conditions by using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification diagnosis codes 520.0 through 529.9.

Results: During the 2013-2015 study period, among the more than 890,000 Medicaid patients with a dental diagnosis, 23% received an opioid within 14 days of diagnosis. Female patients were 50% more likely to receive an opioid for pain management of a dental condition than were men (odds ratio [OR], 1.53; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.52 to 1.55). Non-Hispanic whites and African Americans were approximately twice as likely to receive opioids than were Hispanics (OR, 2.11; 95% CI, 2.05 to 2.17 and OR, 1.88; 95% CI, 1.83 to 1.93, respectively). Patients receiving oral health care in an emergency department were nearly 5 times more likely to receive an opioid prescription than were patients treated in a dental office (OR, 4.66; 95% CI, 4.59 to 4.74). Patients with a dental condition diagnosed were nearly 3 times as likely to receive an opioid from a nurse practitioner as from a dentist (OR, 2.64; 95% CI, 2.57 to 2.70). Opioid use was substantially higher among African American female patients (OR, 3.29; 95% CI, 3.18 to 3.40) and non-Hispanic white female patients (OR, 3.24; 95% CI, 3.14 to 3.35) than among Hispanic female patients.

Conclusions: Opioid prescribing patterns differ depending on patient race or ethnicity, sex, and health care provider source in patients with a dental diagnosis in the United States.

Practical implications: Dentists are providing substantially less opioid prescriptions compared to their medical colleagues for pain treatment following a dental diagnosis in the Medicaid population. When considering pain management for dental and related conditions, dentists should continue with conservative prescribing practices as recommended.

Keywords: Medicaid; Opioid; drug prescriptions; oral diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid*
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicaid*
  • Pain Management
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid