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Aug 26, 2020
Data Insights Help Dentists Keep Kids and Teens Safe While Managing Pain

Research shows that young adults, whose brains are still in development, are at greater risk of opioid addiction, and that their first exposure to an opioid is usually from the dentist.To help our clients prevent and protect the most vulnerable populations from opioid addiction, Cigna is leveraging integrated dental and pharmacy data to gain insights on opioid prescriptions. It is also taking action by partnering with dental providers to help limit opioid use among young adults and children. 

A new three-year analysis reveals that Cigna’s policies are having a meaningful impact in dental and pharmacy customers under 18 years old. For those who had their wisdom teeth removed, analysis reflects:

  • 23 percent dosage reduction in opioid prescriptions (morphine milligram equivalent)
  • 7 percent reduction in the overall number of opioid prescriptions, and 
  • 10 percent less likely than adults to be prescribed opioids in 20182 

“The highest numbers of new opioid prescriptions in the dental profession are for teenagers, but their developing brains put them at a greater risk of addiction3,” said lead author Dr. David Hamlin, regional dental director, Cigna. “This decline in opioid prescriptions indicates that dental providers in Cigna’s network are changing how they approach pain management for teenagers and children, such as routinely prescribing non-opioid pain relievers.” 

Cigna Dental’s Commitment to Help Reduce Opioid Misuse 

Cigna continues to take meaningful steps to reduce opioid misuse as part of Cigna Dental Health Connect™, a suite of clinical programs designed to help employers provide meaningful dental care services tailored for their workforce, wherever they are in their health journey. Recent programs include: 

Pain management alternatives: Working with dentists and customers to provide alternative pain management options for needs beyond three days, such as prescribing NSAIDs in combination with acetaminophen to successfully manage some forms of pain as effectively as opioids.

Dental opioid dashboard: Utilizing the power of integrated pharmacy and dental data to evaluate opioid prescriptions to pinpoint when, how and where opioids are being prescribed by location, dental claim code, dental provider, customer demographics and at the client level, among its dental provider network.

Partnering with its dental network to manage pain safely: Using data from the dental opioid dashboard to get ahead of underlying issues, support discussing alternatives with dental providers, educate the dental network about the risks and trends, and develop long-term solutions. 

“We are committed to harnessing integrated dental and pharmacy data to understand patterns of opioid prescriptions, said Dr. Cary Sun, chief dental officer at Cigna. “The combination of this information and our strong dental partnerships enables us to pinpoint opportunities to help those most vulnerable to addiction.” 

For more information about Cigna’s commitment to reducing opioid use and efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, visit Cigna: Fighting the Opioid Epidemic.


1 Schroedar, AR, “Association of opioid prescriptions from dental clinicians for U.S. adolescents and young adults with subsequent opioid use and abuse”, JAMA Intern Med. 2019, 179(2);145-152

2 Integrated Analysis of Wisdom Tooth Related Opioid Dental Prescribing Behaviors. D. Hamlin, R. Wojewoda, E. Harasta, C. Sun, X. Gu, K. Wever. Journal of Dental Research, J Dent Res 99 (Spec Iss A): abstract number 1196.

3 Gupta, N. “Opioid prescribing practices from 2010 thru 2015 among dentists in the United States.  What do claims data tell us?” JADA 2018;149(4):237-245