The next time you see your dentist don’t be surprised if they have a few new questions for you, questions about substance abuse and the use of illicit drugs. According to the latest survey over 75% of dentists in the USA ask about drug and alcohol use with their patients, and over 50% of the dentists who responded believed that they should be allowed to drug screen new patients. Some people feel that this is going too far and that it is an invasion of privacy because the dentist is primarily involved in the care of the teeth and oral tissues, not the general health and well being.
The lead author of the dentist survey on drug abuse, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City associate research scientist Carrigan Parish explained “Because dental care routinely involves treating pain and emergencies, dentists may encounter substance-seeking patients who complain of pain more severe than anticipated based on the nature of their dental condition, who report lost prescriptions for opioid pain medications, or who only seek dental treatment sporadically.” Parrish went on to say “There are a sizeable number of people whose visit to a dentist represents their sole interaction with the health care system, highlighting the significance of the dental visit as a key opportunity to identify substance use disorders. However, our findings underscore a significant barrier in dentists’ attitudes that may limit the potential of the dental venue to play a role in screening for substance misuse.”