Training Clinicians to Recognize and Help Substance Abusers
Dentists, hygienists, and their assistants are often amongst the first clinicians to recognize that a patient is experiencing a substance abuse disorder. Characteristic patterns of enamel wear and tooth decay are indicators of opioid or methamphetamine use. To date a federal program run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has funded training for dentists and their support staff to help dental patients resolve problems with substance abuse.
Recognizing opioid abuse is especially important in dentistry due to the use of opioid drugs as painkillers after oral surgery. Clinical awareness of the signs of chronic opioid use helps prevent the overprescription of pharmaceuticals that in the long run could do the patient more harm than good. The American Dental Association is part of a coalition that encourages the continuance of clinical training programs revolving around substance abuse, since these seminars fill “a significant deficit in substance use disorder education and training for prescribers.”
The Providers Clinical Support System Medication Assisted Treatment program is an example of a project funded by the government. (Could you tell based on the really long name?) Besides helping dentists to make good decisions when prescribing opioids, other continuing education courses offered in the program discuss how the dental clinician can be a helpful part of treatment teams for people with substance use disorders and often co-occurring mental illness.
Recognizing a problem and knowing what to do about it are first steps in finding cures. Whether the problem is a toothache, a cavity, or opioid abuse, the right treatment is available. With the help of the ADA and programs for clinical training, the Placerville Dental Group is here for our patients during every step of their treatment process.