According to a new study, prescribing opioid painkillers to young people after pulling their wisdom teeth may be putting them at risk of addiction. Teens and young adults often have their first exposure to highly addictive pain medicines when they have their wisdom teeth removed.
The study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine (Dec. 3, 2018), is a stark reminder of the opioid addiction epidemic in the United States that has lead to a record of over 70,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2017.
Almost 6% of nearly 15,000 people between 16-25 years old that received an opioid prescription from their dentist or oral surgeon were abusing opioids within a year according to the study. By comparison, less than 0.5% of patients who were not prescribed an opioid were diagnosed with opioid abuse. The numbers looked especially troubling for girls and women. More than 10% of females 16-25 years old who received a dental opioid prescription (in 2015) were diagnosed with opioid abuse within the year.
Most people who have their wisdom teeth removed do just as well or better on over-the-counter pain relievers. An April 2018 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that anti-inflammatory pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol), typically work better than opioids at easing acute dental pain.
Many Oral Surgeons and Dentists have been reevaluating their use of opioids in recent years.
Nearly six times as many people have died of opioid overdoses in 2017 than in 1999 when pharmaceutical companies began promoting opioids.