Dentists in the US write 37 times more opioid prescriptions than dentists in England.

And, the type of opioids they prescribe has a higher potential for abuse.

That's according to researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago who believe that the degree to which prescribing patterns differ between dentists in the two countries, which have similar oral health and dental utilisation, is eye-opening.

The study reveals that US dentists wrote 37 times more opioid prescriptions in 2016 – 1.4 million in the US compared to only 28,000 in England.

This finding remained even when the researchers adjusted for differences in population size and number of dentists.

They also found that US dentists prescribed a much wider range of opioids, where dentists in England only prescribed one – a codeine derivative called dihydrocodeine, which is the only opioid included in the formulary used by their National Health Service. In the US, the most commonly prescribed opioids were hydrocodone-based, followed by codeine, oxycodone and tramadol. One in ten opioids prescribed by US dentists were opioids with a high potential for abuse and diversion, such as oxycodone and long-acting opioids. Dentists in England did not prescribe these opioids.