Pennsylvania Releases Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for Dentists

June 15, 2015

The departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) and Health today released its third set of prescribing guidelines to address the prescribing of opioids for acute or chronic head and oral-facial pain.

“In the past 15 years, Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation has seen a dramatic increase of prescribing opioids, and we believe this has led to the heroin and opioid crisis we are facing today,” said DDAP Secretary Gary Tennis. “This new set of guidelines will strengthen our efforts to significantly reduce the need for opioid prescription medications and open the door to alternative pain management for our citizens.” 

The dental prescribing guidelines address the use of opioids for the treatment of acute dental pain, and are intended to help health care providers improve patient outcomes when providing dental treatment, including avoiding potential adverse outcomes associated with the use of opioids to treat pain.

"Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) understands that the issue of prescription drug abuse is a grave and growing concern among law enforcement, policymakers and the health care community and that initiatives must be undertaken to reduce the number of Pennsylvanians, especially our youth, who suffer from dependency of prescription drugs", said Dr. Wade Newman, PDA President. "The dental profession is a committed stakeholder in educating the provider community and patients about the inherent dangers and risks associated with prescription drug abuse."

The Safe and Effective Prescribing Practices and Pain Management task force was created by DDAP in collaboration with departments of Human Services and Health, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and other stakeholder groups, in an effort to reduce prescription drug abuse and overdoses in Pennsylvania. The task force includes health care professionals, federal and state agencies.  The task force has been reviewing prescribing practices and identifying guidelines for health care providers who treat chronic non-cancer pain.

“The Department of Health would like to acknowledge the important work of the Pennsylvania Dental Association,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy. “It is critical to follow prescription guidelines in order to prevent opioid addiction.”

The guidelines have been endorsed by the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the Pennsylvania Dental Association.

To view the guidelines online click here, or for more information, visit

MEDIA CONTACT: Carey Miller (DDAP), 717-547-3314, Amy Worden (Health), 717-787-1783