Although nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs are superior to opioids in dental pain management, opioids are still prescribed for dental pain in the United States. Little is known about the serious adverse outcomes of short-acting opioids within the context of dental prescribing. The objective of this study was to evaluate adverse outcomes and persistent opioid use (POU) after opioid prescriptions by dentists, based on whether opioids were overprescribed or within recommendations. A cross-sectional analysis of adults with a dental visit and corresponding opioid prescription (index) from 2011 to 2018 within a nationwide commercial claims database was conducted. Opioid overprescribing was defined as >120 morphine milligram equivalents per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Generalized estimating equation models were used to assess adverse outcomes (emergency department visits, hospitalizations, newly diagnosed substance use disorder, naloxone administration, or death within 30 days from index) and POU (≥1 prescription 4-90 days postindex). Predicted probabilities are reported. Of 633,387 visits, 2.6% experienced an adverse outcome and 16.6% had POU. Adverse outcome risk was not different whether opioids were overprescribed or within recommendations (predicted probability 9.0%, confidence interval [CI]: 8.0%-10.2% vs 9.1%, CI: 8.1-10.3), but POU was higher when opioids were overprescribed (predicted probability 27.4%, CI: 26.1%-28.8% vs 25.2%, CI: 24.0%-26.5%). Visits associated with mild pain and those with substance use disorders had the highest risk of both outcomes. Findings from this study demonstrate that dental prescribing of opioids was associated with adverse outcomes and POU, even when prescriptions were concordant with guidelines. Additional efforts are required to improve analgesic prescribing in dentistry, especially in groups at high risk of opioid-related adverse outcomes.
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