NADP Knowledge Center
Confronting the Opioid Epidemic with New Oral Health Programs
Recorded On: 09/29/2020
Opioid prescriptions commonly have been associated with wisdom tooth extraction, as this is intensive oral surgery performed on more than 5 million people annually, primarily young people. In fact, oral health professionals write 12% of all opioid prescriptions, including more than 54% of opioid prescriptions for adolescents – an age group especially vulnerable to misuse, addiction and overdose. This presentation will address a comprehensive and strategic approach to oral health to confront the opioid crisis from all angles, to prevent misuse of drugs and addiction, deliver tailored treatment to those who are addicted, and support long-term recovery.
Successful interventions include pharmacy policy changes, outreach to dental health professionals and consumers, and broad public education efforts. To that end, a new public toolkit provides information for oral health professionals and consumers, including an educational flyer with commonly asked questions related to opioids and a checklist to help people better understand pain-management options before and after wisdom-teeth removal.
Together, these efforts to date have resulted in an 89% reduction in opioid prescriptions above federal guidelines written by network dental health professionals for UnitedHealthcare dental members age 19 and younger. The speaker will provide details on the steps industry stakeholders, including health plans, care providers and governments, should take to help support the health of young people and address the connection between dental care and opioids.
Richard Gesker, DMD, MBA
Chief Dental Officer
Dr. Richard W. Gesker is the chief dental officer of UnitedHealthcare Dental, a national ancillary benefits company serving the oral health needs of more than 11 million people enrolled in commercial and government programs.
Dr. Gesker leads the development of innovative clinical quality initiatives, clinical strategic direction, and clinical policies, promoting access to quality and cost-effective dental services for enrolled members. He serves as the company’s chief advisor and thought leader on clinical quality and care management related to oral health, including representing the organization with various external alliances such as the American Dental Association, National Association of Dental Plans, and Harvard School of Dental Medicine.
Prior to joining UnitedHealthcare Dental in 2020, Dr. Gesker spent more than 17 years in a variety of healthcare leadership roles spanning private practice, nonprofits and the military. He previously served as a lieutenant dentist in the United States Navy; chief dental officer for Mary’s Center, a primary care medical center in Washington D.C.; and director of professional development for Dental Associates in Milwaukee. In these roles, he applied his expertise in developing clinical protocols, cultivating health care provider relationships, enhancing the patient experience and supporting multi-office strategic initiatives.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Drexel University a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) and an M.B.A. from Temple University, where he previously served as an adjunct professor.