Trends in Opioid Prescribing by General Dentists and Dental Specialists in the U.S., 2012–2019

Published:February 26, 2022DOI:


      Evidence suggests that U.S. dentists prescribe opioids excessively. There are limited national data on recent trends in opioid prescriptions by U.S. dentists. In this study, we examined trends in opioid prescribing by general dentists and dental specialists in the U.S. from 2012 to 2019.


      Dispensed prescriptions for oral opioid analgesics written by dentists were identified from IQVIA Longitudinal Prescription Data from January 2012 through December 2019. Autoregressive integrated moving average and joinpoint regression models described monthly population-based prescribing rates (prescriptions/100,000 individuals), dentist-based prescribing rates (prescriptions/1,000 dentists), and opioid dosages (mean daily morphine milligram equivalents/day). All analyses were performed in 2020.


      Over the 8 years, dentists prescribed >87.2 million opioid prescriptions. Population- and dentist-based prescribing rates declined monthly by −1.97 prescriptions/100,000 individuals (95% CI= −9.98, −0.97) and −39.12 prescriptions/1,000 dentists (95% CI= −58.63, −17.65), respectively. Opioid dosages declined monthly by −0.08 morphine milligram equivalents/day (95% CI= −0.13, −0.04). Joinpoint regression identified 4 timepoints (February 2016, May 2017, December 2018, and March 2019) at which monthly prescribing rate trends were often decreasing in greater magnitude than those in the previous time segment.


      Following national trends, dentists became more conservative in prescribing opioids. A greater magnitude of decline occurred post 2016 following the implementation of strategies aimed to further regulate opioid prescribing. Understanding the factors that influence prescribing trends can aid in development of tailored resources to encourage and support a conservative approach by dentists, to prescribing opioids.
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