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May 22, 2019
The Power of Data: Helping Dentists Manage Pain Safely

As a prescriber of opioids, dentists play an important role in addressing the opioid epidemic. As part of a long-standing commitment to help curb opioid addiction and overdose, Cigna has partnered with dentists to increase awareness of the dangers of opioids, the greater risk of misuse and addiction among teenagers, and safer non-opioid options to manage acute dental pain. Taking these efforts further, Cigna is harnessing dental and pharmacy data and analytics to drive prevention, early intervention, and create long-term solutions in partnership with providers.

An analysis of three years of Cigna customers with dental and pharmacy benefits revealed a 19 percent reduction in opioid (morphine milligram equivalent) prescriptions and 9 percent reduction for opioid days’ supply across dental specialists in the Cigna network. These findings demonstrate that these Cigna's dental providers are embracing the CDC’s recommendations [PDF] to help reduce opioid misuse, including routinely prescribe NSAIDs for acute pain or prescribe opioids for three days or less to manage acute pain from dental procedures (e.g. wisdom tooth extraction, root canal, etc.).

“Analyzing integrated pharmacy and dental data is an important step in helping us understand patterns of opioid prescriptions among dental providers,” said Dr. David Hamlin, Regional Dental Director, Cigna. “Through the power of data, collaboration, and education, we can identify opportunities to improve treatment, intervene early, and support dental providers and customers in new ways.”

The recent data analysis of existing claims is just the start of what can be achieved through data. In addition to sharing insights with the dental community, including at the 2019 annual International Association for Dental Research (IADR) conference, Cigna will continue to evaluate what drives opioid prescriptions for specific populations and build tools to monitor safety across a network of over 146,000 dental providers. Cigna is also exploring research and partnerships with technology companies to evaluate the role of digital pain management.

“We work closely with providers and give them the information, resources, and tools they need to help their patients manage pain in the safest way possible,” said Dr. Doug Nemecek, Chief Medical Officer for Behavioral Health, Cigna. “One opportunity is informing treatment plans through data-driven insights. This is true for both medical and dental pain management, and as a result we are reducing reliance on opioids – a win for patients, families, and communities.”

For more information about Cigna’s commitment to reducing opioid use and efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, please visit Cigna: Fighting the Opioid Epidemic. To learn more about Cigna's efforts to improve oral health visit Cigna Dental DNA.


1 The Power of Data Analytics in Exploring Dental Prescribing Behaviors in the U.S. Opioid Crisis, D. Hamlin, X. Gu, R. Wojewoda, M. Hahn, C. Sun, J Dent Res J Dent Res Vol 98 (Spec Iss A): abstract number 1783, ( www.iadr.org). Presented at 97th General Session & Exhibition of the IADR on June 21, 2019.

2 Total number of dental providers contracted with Cigna Dental as of June 2019. Data gathered across Cigna DPPO and Cigna Dental Care (DHMO) networks and is subject to change.