September 2020

How Cigna uses data and insights to stop addiction in adolescence before it starts.

Developing brains put teenagers at greater risk of opioid addiction, and their first exposure to an opioid is usually from the dentist.1 Adolescents and young adults have a greater risk of opioid addiction because their brains are at a critical juncture. Dental procedures such as wisdom teeth removal may be their first experience with prescription pain killers. As part of Cigna's efforts to help our clients prevent and protect the most vulnerable populations from opioid addiction, the company is leveraging integrated dental and pharmacy data to gain insights on opioid prescriptions and partnering with dental providers to help limit opioid use among teenagers and children.

The results are encouraging.

Here’s what Cigna's three-year analysis published by the International Association for Dental Research found:

  • The study showed a 7% reduction of opioid prescriptions for individuals under 18 years old who had their wisdom teeth removed.2
  • Customers under 18 were nearly 10% less likely than adults to be prescribed opioids in 2018.2

“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 addiction,3” said lead author Dr. David Hamlin, regional dental director at 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.”

Prescribing NSAIDs is clinically proven to successfully manage pain as effectively as opioids and can also treat inflammation. Earlier this year, Cigna limited opioid prescriptions for a dental procedure to a three-day supply in accordance with CDC recommendations.

Leveraging integrated dental opioid dashboard insights to partner with dentists.

Taking its commitment to help reduce opioid use one step further, Cigna is launching an online dental opioid dashboard that can evaluate opioid prescriptions among its dental provider network through the power of integrated pharmacy and dental data. The opioid dashboard can help Cigna pinpoint when, how and where opioids are being prescribed by location, dental claim code, dental provider and customer demographics as well as at the client level.

Cigna has had a long-standing commitment to help curb opioid addiction and overdose, which is why the Cigna dental team is partnering with dentists to increase awareness of the dangers of opioids. This includes getting ahead of underlying issues, individually discussing alternatives with dental providers, educating the dental network about the risks and trends, and developing 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.”

These initiatives are 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.

Read press release

See the full study published on the International Association for Dental Research website.

  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. Wojewoda1, E. Harasta, C. Sun, X. Gu, K. Wever. Journal of Dental Research, J Dent Res 99 (Spec Iss A): abstract number 1196. Presented at 44th Annual Meeting of the AADR on March 19, 2020.
  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.