Dental Staffing

Are Drug Seekers Targeting Your Dental Practice?

I’m sure you’ve had your own experiences with drug seekers, but I heard a story today that almost made me break out my violin. The story went something like this:

The patient presented with a toothache and was acting as if he was drugged. He was drifting in and out sleep, agonizing as he held his jaw. His chart indicated he’d failed five appointments and had only been in for limited exams…several times. The one film that was taken revealed five teeth and all of them had serious carious lesions. In reviewing former radiographs, the decay had been present for years, just progressively getting worse.

I recalled a seminar when we were told that drug seekers let their teeth decay just to receive narcotics from Dental Professionals like you and me. Early in my dental education, I was working as a Dental Assistant in a Dental office on a Saturdays when a ‘new patient’ came in with a toothache. The Dentist (out of school less than a year) gave this patient a rather hefty prescription for Percocet. He left, only to call her a couple of hours later explaining he’d “lost the prescription”. She invited him back in and gave him another prescription for the same amount! I knew that this patient had not “lost” his prescription…he was a drug seeker.

So today’s story went on like this:

The Doctor asked an emergency patient why he’s failed so many appointments; he also asked why he only came in for toothaches. I’m thinking these are reasonable questions, but the patient immediately asked “why are you treating me like this?”  The Doctor explained that the questions were valid and the patient started to cry. Keep in mind this patient was a 32 year old grown man!

Since this occurred in a multi-doctor practice, that patient asked if there was “someone in a higher position he could speak to, because he didn’t like being questioned.” The Doctor explained the only person in a higher position was employed by the DEA!

The patient took his prescription for Motrin and antibiotics and left…true story!! LOL

Personally, I’m very stingy with pain meds; a good loading dose of antibiotics and Motrin works well to abate pain. As responsible Dental Professionals, it is our obligation to understand the problems facing America’s opioid crisis and do our part to spot drug seekers and treat them in a manner that negates abuse.


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"You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."
- Abraham Lincoln