Seeking to lower the use of opioids in dental care, UnitedHealthcare has released a new oral health public toolkit for professionals and consumers alike meant to educate on alternative pain-management options both before and after wisdom teeth removal.
The toolkit includes an educational flyer with commonly asked questions, a pain plan checklist, and dosing directions. It is part of a larger initiative, which pairs it with a pharmacy policy, dental health professional and plan participant outreach, and public service announcements.
“Confronting the opioid epidemic requires a comprehensive approach involving multiple stakeholders across the health care system, including addressing the often overlooked connection with dental care,” Tom Wiffler, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Specialty Benefits, said. “Working together, these initiatives are making a meaningful difference in helping address this important national public health issue.”
UnitedHealthcare’s pharmacy policy locks morphine use for all first-time opioid prescriptions to three days maximum and fewer than 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day. This applies to all 19 years old and younger, following recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its PSAs, which appear both on TV and radio, aired on nearly 400 stations last year. As to its outreach efforts, emails were dispatched to approximately 72,000 dental plan participants between ages 16 and 22, detailing the risks associated with opioids, while network dental health professionals identified as consistently prescribing opioids above CDC guidelines will be messaged regarding their status and access to the pain management toolkit.
Thus far, such efforts have produced results. UnitedHealthcare reported that after addressing oral health professionals last year, prescribing patterns improved by 12 percent. Such professionals, the company noted, write 12 percent of all opioid prescriptions, including more than half of those written for adolescents. Overall, these efforts have resulted in an 89 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions above federal guidelines targeted at dental plan participants 19 or younger.