Every year in America, about 5 million people, most of whom are adolescents and young adults, have their wisdom teeth removed, and many dentists are prescribing opioids for the pain during their recovery.
According to CBS News, dentists wrote almost half a million fewer prescriptions in 2017 compared to five years earlier. However, that amount still led to a staggering 18.1 million prescriptions, which is causing some families to live with devastating consequences.
The American Dental Association said that after updating its guidelines advising against prescribing opioids, dentists and their pain prescriptions are still contributing to the opioid epidemic.
Dr. Chad Brummett, who studies pain research at the University of Michigan, confirmed to CBS News, “For many, dental care such as wisdom teeth extraction is the first opioid exposure,” he said. “It could be like 50,000 kids each year becoming new chronic opioid users after just something simple like a wisdom tooth extraction.”
Brummett said that despite research showing a combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen as a better alternative for treating pain, dentists are still prescribing too many opioids in far too many cases.
Dr. Brummett’s research also found that filling an opioid prescription after wisdom tooth surgery more than doubled the odds of continued use among patients who had never taken those drugs before.
The American Dental Association has released updated guidelines for Dentists recommending the use of alternative pain relievers, and a maximum seven-day supply in cases when opioids are absolutely necessary.