Could the medications that are often prescribed after wisdom teeth surgery be contributing to the opioid addiction crisis?
The Doctors welcome oral surgeon Dr. Steven Kupferman to discuss a University of Michigan study, which found that dentists are the leading source of opioid prescriptions for people ages 10 to 19 years old. And with nearly 5 million Americans getting their wisdom teeth removed annually, should we think twice about using opioids to help deal with the associated pain following surgery?
Dr. Kupferman says that opioid medications are not needed in the vast majority of wisdom teeth surgeries, explaining there are advances in the types of medications available to patients and many are non-opioids. One example of an opioid alternative option and something that Dr. Kupferman uses in his practice is a long-acting form of novocaine. It causes the area treated to remain numb for 3 to 4 days after surgery, thus avoiding the need for opioids for the pain. He goes on to explain that for many young people, a wisdom tooth removal is their first surgery and most likely their first time taking an opioid, and avoiding exposure to this type of drug at such a young age could help prevent a possible future addiction.
The Doctors explain that in many cases the use of ibuprofen and acetaminophen can treat people's pain just as effectively as an opioid.
Dr. Kupferman stresses that patients needing their wisdom teeth removed should seek out an oral surgeon, as the majority of their practice is wisdom teeth removal and they are specially trained in controlling the subsequent pain.