Congress has responded in a big way to the opioid crisis making headlines across the nation. The American Dental Association (ADA) has been very involved in pushing this important issue forward and continues to urge the federal government to place a greater emphasis on managing acute pain in its prevention efforts.

In a recent letter, ADA President Jeffrey M. Cole and Kathleen T. O'Loughlin thanked lawmakers for holding a June 19 hearing, "Medical Experts: Inadequate Federal Approach to Opioid Treatment and the Need to Expand Care."

Drs. Cole and O'Loughlin told Congress that the ADA remains committed to working with legislators, government agencies and other stakeholders to keep prescription opioid pain medications from becoming a source of harm, noting the ADA 2018 policy that called for mandating continuing education and initial prescribing limits for opioids for dentists.

"Our main criticism of the federal response to the opioid crisis is that it has not sufficiently distinguished pain management in dentistry from pain management in medicine, specifically when it comes to managing acute pain versus chronic pain," Drs. Cole and O'Loughlin wrote. For this reason, the federal response to the opioid crisis has not been particularly helpful to dentists.

The ADA urged lawmakers to better address the nuances of managing acute pain following one-time surgical procedures and recommended that prescriber education opportunities be coordinated with professional societies and administered by an accredited continuing education provider — and that the coursework be dually recognized for state licensure purposes.

If adopted, the measures will enable the ADA to target education and outreach messages to dentists and, ideally, lead them to use non-narcotic pain relievers as the first-line therapy for acute pain management.

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