I see a local dentist here in Auburn fairly regularly but fell out of schedule because of COVID. Prior to that, I had no issues and got my cleanings as needed. I recently visited family in Florida and, of course, came down with a terrible toothache. I couldn’t see anything wrong with the tooth, but it absolutely killed me to eat just about anything and it was somewhat tender just from breathing. In any case, I had to visit a dentist there to get it checked out. He said he couldn’t see anything wrong with it on the x-ray but that, based on my symptoms, it was probably a cracked tooth.
The first problem was that he said only a crown would fix it. Well, that apparently meant I’d have to return to his office to finish it in two weeks… not realistic since I was only supposed to be there for a week. I asked him about possibly just getting some pain medication and having it fixed by my dentist when I got back home. That’s when it went from bad to worse.
The next thing I know, he’s looking me up in some database and telling me that I already have a strong pain prescription and he can’t give me anything else. Yes, I had another pain prescription. I received it a month ago when I went in for a medical procedure. I was fine and recovered and that medication was here at home, not something I took with me. I’m not some addict and I was in serious pain. Is it normal for doctors to behave like this over prescriptions now? I didn’t have any issue when I came home. My doc patched me up right away and didn’t bat an eye when I asked for something for the pain, but I’m not sure if it was because he knows me or what.
That sounds like a nightmare! Sorry to hear you went through all that. It sounds like the practice you visited could have handled it better, but let’s go over what happened and why.
All Prescribers (Including Dentists) in Many States Are Subject to New Prescribing Laws
Around three-quarters of the country now has very strict laws about how prescriptions are handled. Some states even extend the new laws to any prescription, while others simply have stringent requirements when it comes to controlled substances or opioids. This is necessary and vital. You spoke about not being an “addict,” but the unfortunate truth is that the country’s opioid crisis is largely driven by prescription medications. Without more oversight on how potentially habit-forming medications are handled, it’s historically been very easy for the average person to unintentionally get hooked on pain medicine… in much the same way you could have. One prescription from a doctor after surgery, another from an emergency dental visit, another after dental treatment, another down the line from a physician, and so forth.
Compounding the problem, 21-29% of people who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, according to the NIH Between 8-12% will develop an opioid use disorder. It has exploded into a widespread epidemic with 50,000 opioid-involved overdoses per year.
To address this, most states now require prescribers to send prescriptions for controlled substances electronically. Some also have mandates that doctors check a database and assess a patient’s risk before prescribing.
Florida Has Stringent Prescribing Laws
Florida is one of the many states with advanced laws for prescribing controlled substances. Doctors need to submit prescriptions electronically and check a database to assess risk of addiction. This isn’t because the doctor thinks you’re an addict, but rather because it’s his job to ensure you’re not placed at risk. Prescribers can get in legal trouble for not following these new mandates.
Alabama Does Not Have Stringent Laws
Alabama is presently one of the very few holdout states that isn’t implementing similar laws just yet. This may be why your regular office didn’t respond in a similar manner. You could also be right in that, because you’re an established patient, they didn’t worry that you might be shopping for medications. Or, maybe it was because you were getting treatment right away. In all likelihood, all these factors probably played a role. Hope this helps clear things up a bit. Glad you’re feeling better now!
This blog is sponsored by Dr. Raymond Bolt, an Auburn, AL dentist.