Research Summary

Opioid Prescription Pre-, Post-Pandemic in Patients Who Have Undergone Dental Procedures

Jessica Ganga

Opioid prescriptions for patients who underwent a dental procedure have been declining, but the decline has slowed since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study.

A team of researchers conducted a cross-sectional analysis of the IQVIA Longitudinal Prescription Database, which is a database that reports 92% of prescriptions dispensed in United States retail pharmacies. For their study, researchers calculated the monthly opioid dispensing rate during two different periods: January 2016 to February 2020 and June 2020 to December 2022.

Over 81 million dental opioid prescriptions were included in the analysis. The annual number of prescriptions declined by 44.7% from 2016 to 2022. From January 2016 to June 202, the dental opioid dispensing rate declined by 3.9% per month, with the rate abruptly increasing by 31.4% in June 2020. Further, the monthly decline in the dental opioid dispensing rate slowed to 2.1% per month. During June 2020 to December 2020, due to the slowed rate, 6.1 million more dental opioid prescriptions were dispensed to patients. This amount was more than predicted had the trends from January 2016 to February 2020 continued.

“Future research should continue to monitor dental opioid prescribing trends beyond 2022 to evaluate whether this slowing continues,” the researchers concluded. “In the meantime, renewed investment in opioid stewardship efforts is needed to ensure that the contribution of dental opioid prescribing to the US opioid epidemic continues to be mitigated.”


Zhang J, Nalliah RP, Waljii JF, Brummett CM, Chua KP. Association between the COVID-19 outbreak and opioid prescribing by U.S. dentists. PLOS One. Published online November 2, 2023. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0293621