In our ongoing analysis of America’s opioid crisis, we often reference doctors and pharmacists who have been singled out for overprescribing painkillers. But a new report has surfaced which is bringing the dental profession into the equation. Believe it or not, dentists and oral surgeons are one of the leading prescribers of opioids; particularly for teens and adolescents.
Stats released by TheFix.com and The Daily Beast revealed that dentists prescribe nearly 10 percent of all opioids nationally, primarily for wisdom teeth procedures. Vicodin was singled out as the drug of choice, since it is a potent way to treat oral pain after surgery.
And although the intentions are usually good, it’s drugs like these that are contributing to the U.S. opioid epidemic. Currently, the crisis is claiming 91 American lives per day and (as we all know) it is continuing to receive national attention.
The true scary stat to come out of the report concerned America’s younger set and the addiction risks that these types of dental procedures can have on children. According to the data, dentists and oral surgeons are the number one prescribers of opioids for adolescents aged 10 to 19.
Psychologist Andrew Kolodny was interviewed by The Beast and had some strong words about the stats. “There are studies that show that children who are exposed to opioids… after their wisdom teeth come out are much more likely to use opioids non-medically—basically recreationally,” he said. “And that can lead to abuse later in life.”
And of that set, it was shown that children exposed to opioids before the end of high school were 33 percent more likely to form an addiction. There are also even greater hazards for children who abuse, as their brains are still not fully formed and may be at risk for permanent damage.
Are there solutions? According to the article, yes. Research has shown that there are sufficient alternatives to opioids for people who have gone through wisdom teeth procedures. Exparel, for example, was listed as a less addictive painkiller, as were aspirin and ibuprofen combinations (such as Advil and Tylenol).
The big takeaway was that many in the dental field weren’t even aware of these stats. The article did not try to portray those professionals negatively or with malicious intent. It just went on to illustrate that every person in the medical field should be aware of the crisis and act accordingly when it comes to treating pain.