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Washington State Dental Association

DQAC Letter on Prescribing Opioids

The Washington State Dental Quality Assurance Commission (DQAC) recently sent a letter to licensed Washington dentists regarding prescribing opioids. Please read the letter below, or view the original version (including the referenced opioid prescribing resource sheet) here


June 12, 2017

Dear Washington State Licensed Dentist:

In October 2016, Governor Inslee issued Executive Order 16-09 to address the alarming opioid epidemic. In response to this order, the Dental Quality Assurance Commission has identified opioid prescribing as a high-priority issue. The commission will work with stakeholders to educate both dental practitioners and patients about prescribing opioids, use of opioids, and recommendations for alternative pain management solutions.

The United States is experiencing a dramatic increase in prescription and non-prescription opioid overdose deaths. Acute pain management poses many challenges for clinicians. Pain relief can be accomplished by pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic means. When prescribing opioids, each opioid prescription should be carefully considered. Clinicians should consider writing prescriptions for the minimum required, and should provide consultation to patients on alternative pain management solutions.

Dentists write about 31 percent of opioid prescriptions for patients ages 10 to 19. This is a critical age window for addiction tendencies. High schoolers who receive an opioid prescription are 33 percent more likely to misuse opioids between the ages of 18 and 23 years. In addition, those who are addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin. Dental providers have the opportunity and responsibility to play a critical role in minimizing opioid exposure for vulnerable young people, and in reducing the number of opioid prescriptions, addictions, and deaths in our community.

The Washington State legislature passed Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1427 this year requiring several boards and commissions, including the Dental Quality Assurance Commission, to adopt rules by January 1, 2019 that establish requirements for prescribing opioid drugs. The dental commission will work with other regulatory entities to develop consistent rules for all prescribing practitioners. The dental commission welcomes dentist and public comment in the rulemaking process. To receive dental notifications, sign up using your email at:

The dental commission encourages all dental practitioners to educate themselves, their office staff, and patients about alternatives for acute pain management. Attached is a resource sheet to assist you. We look forward to working with you in addressing this crisis.


John Carbery, D.M.D, Chairperson
Dental Quality Assurance Commission

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