Stat News reports on a dentist who overcame his own opioid addiction and then worked to keep his practice safe for patients also struggling with addiction.

Yet Wood’s attempt to do the right thing — for himself but also, he believes, for his patients — has collided with an unnerving reality: Opioids are ingrained in the culture of dentistry, and his decision has been bad for business.

Wood’s story is a case study of the pressures dentists face to prescribe potent pain pills, even as research shows most of their patients would do just fine with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen. Many patients have come to expect strong narcotics after having a tooth removed or undergoing a root canal.

The pressures go well beyond anxious patients: A major insurance company was hesitant to add Wood to its network because of his limited prescribing license.

“It’s almost like they’re telling me to prescribe opiates,” Wood told STAT. “Drugs are ruining this country and they want me to add to it. And I’ve basically said, ‘No, I won’t do it. You know, I will not do it.’”

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