Tag Archives: dental surgery

Dentists Offer Option to Opioids for Pain Relief and Fighting Addiction

The opioid epidemic continues to rage through North America, and experts in East Tennessee are looking into the source of the problem. Many of them have determined that it can start with a trip to the dentist’s office.

Dr. Turner Emery, an oral surgeon on Knoxville, explained that doctors have been blamed for a lot of patients getting started on opioids. However, dentists also prescribe this class of medications to their patients, who are also put at risk for addiction.

Exparel Given at Time of Surgery

Dr. Emery is using a medication in his practice called Exparel to reduce risk of opioid addiction. It numbs the area around teeth that have been extracted for up to four days after oral surgery has been performed. When Exparel is used, a dental surgery patient may not need prescription pain medication at all.

The peak time for a dental patient to experience pain following wisdom teeth removal is on the second and third day following surgery, Dr. Emery explains. He has had a couple of patients who have had to take one or two doses of a narcotic, but most patients have been able to relieve their pain wth over the counter (OTC) medicines.

The medication is given by injection in each molar. Patients report that it reduces the need for narcotic pain medication and doesn’t make them feel drowsy during the first few days following their procedure.

First Exposure to Narcotics After Dental Surgery

A number of adolescents are first exposed to opioids following dental surgery. They may also be prescribed these strong pain medications following a sport injury. If a young person is prescribed more medicine than they need for the initial health condition, there is a concern that the opioid pain reliever may end up in someone else’s hands. The young person may continue taking the narcotic after the initial need for the strong pain medication has ended.

Medication Effective for Pain Relief

Exparel isn’t covered by all health insurance companies. The medication costs approximately $200.00, which can be a prohibitive factor for some patients and their families. Dr. Emery states that the medication works “really, really well” and that he has had good results with it.

source of prescription drug abuse dental

Unused Painkillers from Dental Surgery a Source of Prescription Drug Abuse

One of the most common dental procedures in the United States is the removal of wisdom teeth. Left over from a time when we needed an extra set of molars to chew a diet of leaves, roots and nuts, the removal of these teeth is now causing thousands of people to become addicted to painkillers.

Most people get their wisdom teeth removed when there is too much crowding, or they are not coming in correctly. It is common to get this procedure done between the ages of 17 and 25. As this procedure requires surgery on the mouth, a prescription of Vicodin or Percocet is usually given to help with recovery. However, according to a study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, more than half of these pills go unused. And instead of disposing of these unused pills, many people keep them, and this is where the danger comes in.

Storing and forgetting about bottles of prescription painkillers often leads to abuse by other family members or friends of the family who stumble onto the drugs. Because the pills are not currently being taken, the theft often goes unnoticed. And while the study uncovered this potential for abuse, it also uncovered a way to cut back on the problem. By providing patients with information on how to safely dispose of their unused medications and the risks associated with keeping unused pills, people were more likely to get rid of the pills rather than hang on to them after the pain healed from surgery. Another way is for dentists to begin to prescribe a smaller number of pills.

This type of information is important because many healthcare professionals balk at the thought of not sending home a prescription for painkillers after a patient has undergone any type of surgery, but it is important to prevent addiction and save lives.

“We’re going to keep prescribing these drugs because people will need them. We have a long way to go. There’s a lot of health illiteracy. We need to give people information at a level they can understand,” explained Terri Voepel-Lewis of the University of Michigan Health System.

Studies like this one who the importance of educating patients and providing them with information on the proper way of handling a potentially dangerous narcotic. In the midst of the worst drug overdose epidemic in history, these types of life-saving measures should be taken very seriously.