In the field of dentistry, the opioid crisis has had a profound impact on both patients and practitioners. Driven by the desire to alleviate pain, dentists have often prescribed opioids without fully understanding the consequences. However, one dentist’s personal experiences and research have led him to change his practice and advocate for a different approach.
Dr. Jason Dipersio, a dentist with years of experience, has witnessed firsthand the devastating consequences of opioid addiction among his colleagues. Over 20 doctors he has known have struggled with opioid addiction, with some facing license suspensions, prison time, and even fatal overdoses. These experiences have highlighted the importance of recognizing the similarities between healthcare professionals and their patients. Dr. Dipersio emphasizes the need for empathy and understanding when dealing with colleagues who are facing addiction.
Dr. Dipersio’s journey towards changing his approach to pain management began during his residency training. He noticed that patients in the emergency room would often be prescribed opioids for dental pain, but the underlying cause of their pain remained unclear. As he progressed in his career, he realized that the traditional approach of prescribing opioids without scientific evidence or research was inadequate. He became determined to find a better way to manage pain and reduce the risk of opioid misuse.
His initial attempt to shift away from opioids involved recommending over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen. However, he soon discovered that this approach was not sufficient for managing dental pain. Through extensive research, Dr. Dipersio found that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, when taken in combination with acetaminophen, were more effective than opioids for dental pain. He established an optimal dosing regimen of 600 mg of ibuprofen and two OTC acetaminophen every six hours for four days, followed by as needed use.
In addition to changing his prescribing habits, Dr. Dipersio also modified his sedation technique to avoid the use of opioids. He found alternative medications that achieved the same results without exposing patients to the risks of addiction. He also implemented preoperative measures to condition the tissue and reduce discomfort during and after procedures. These changes have led to positive outcomes for his patients, with most experiencing minimal pain and returning to their regular routines within a few days.
Dr. Dipersio acknowledges that his efforts alone cannot solve the opioid crisis, but he believes that collective action from dental providers can make a significant difference. By reevaluating prescribing practices and prioritizing what is best for patients rather than following traditional norms, dentists can help prevent the initiation of opioid use in opioid-naïve individuals. Dr. Dipersio invites his colleagues to join him in this mission and consider how they can contribute to changing the status quo.
In conclusion, Dr. Jason Dipersio’s personal experiences and commitment to evidence-based practice have led him to reject the traditional approach of prescribing opioids for dental pain. Through research and innovative techniques, he has found that non-opioid alternatives can effectively manage pain while minimizing the risk of addiction. Dr. Dipersio encourages his colleagues to reassess their prescribing habits and prioritize the well-being of their patients. By collectively working towards this goal, dental providers can play a significant role in combating the opioid crisis.