When it comes to the opioid crisis, doctors have been getting a lot of heat. But dentists are actually the major prescribers of opioids, specifically to children and teenagers. News 5 found a local dentist doing her part and taking a different approach to change that.
"Dentistry, traditionally, focused just on the oral cavity and whether or not a patient had periodontal disease or cavities," explained Dr. Margaret Frankel, owner of Richards Frankel Dentistry. "But now, we're understanding a bigger picture."
Dr. Frankel's experience in the dentist's office dates back to her childhood when she would visit her dad at his practice in Lyndhurst. She took over in 2013.
"It is a unique approach, because we really do focus on the total health of the patient," she said.
That "whole-health" approach is what sets Dr. Frankel apart.
"Our mouths, clearly, are connected to our bodies, and they can also be a window into the health of our overall body," noted Dr. Frankel.
And that approach has made all the difference for Rick Wherley.
"It has impacted other aspects of my life," he said.
Wherley became Dr. Frankel's patient ten months ago. She suspected he might have sleep apnea - and she was right.
"Your wife always tells you you snore and you always tell her she snores too, and that's it," said Wherley. "But you don't really realize what's going on until you actually have an actual evaluation."
There's another big factor that sets Dr. Frankel's practice apart from others.
"I have never written a prescription for opioids for any of my patients in all the years I've been in practice," she noted.
Instead, she focuses on prevention and non-pharmacological treatments.
"If a patient comes in pain, I'm looking to do everything I can to treat the pain so that it can resolve as soon as possible," Dr. Frankel explained. "As we know, opioids don't actually work to resolve pain, they just manage pain."
Dr. Frankel also points out that access to dental care is an issue in the Cleveland area, but she urges people to see a dentist, because they can often screen for chronic diseases, and can be easier to see than a physician.