Anyone who went to the dentist three or more decades ago can probably still feel the sting of dental work. The mouth is a highly sensitive area, which is why so many dentists use medications to curb not only pain but the anxiety that many people feel when they hop into the dentist’s chair
Opioid use in America is already bordering on epidemic proportions. Over the past several decades there has been a push in the dentistry and oral surgery fields to reduce discomfort by any means necessary, including painkillers. Many dentist and oral surgeons, however, are making a pledge to try alternative methods of pain relief and move away from the use of opioids to ease their patient’s physical and mental anguish.
For many decades dentists and oral surgeons Winnipeg, have been handing out scripts for pain medication to increasingly younger patients. There is a fear that it might be contributing to the sharp rise in prescription drug use in populations across every generation. Dentists have been allowed to prescribe immediate-use opioids like Percocet and Vicodin, which has amounted to as many as 3.5 million people using high-powered painkillers just for dental procedures.
Due to things like tooth extraction and wisdom teeth removal, the group that has predominantly been the recipient of painkillers has been young adults. Like any first, many have their first “experience” early on with prescription medication at the dentist. For many patients introduced to drugs at the dentist’s office, it doesn’t become a problem. But there are some who find great pleasure in the feeling, and the fear is that it may be contributing to drug use and overdose in young adults.
In just the last fifteen years, over 165,000 people have died due to opioid or heroin overdose. That number is exponentially higher when you factor in those who have been or are currently addicted. It is undeniably one of the biggest public health concerns for the future. Because of misuse and overuse, many dentists are choosing to use other methods of pain relief for their patients.
Many state associations and dental boards are making the guidelines stricter for opioid use in dental and oral surgery procedures. In fact, in some states, when dentists are up for renewal, they have to take special training classes about the best and most appropriate ways to use opioids during dental procedures.
A study done in 2011 by the Journal of the American Dental Association found that dentists are responsible for as much as 12% of the prescriptions written for fast-acting opioid painkillers. They are just below the second-highest prescribers — general practitioners and internal medicine professionals.
Professionals in the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery admit that just three decades ago the standard practice for someone who had an invasive dental procedure done was to get a prescription for a bottle of 30 or more narcotic pills. Many in the field of medicine would call that excessive now, but at the time it was highly acceptable to many professionals.
Dentists don’t like to have their patients in discomfort or to cause them pain.
If a patient has a bad experience, then the likelihood decreases that they will maintain good dental habits through regular exams. Many specialists agree, however, that the use of anti-inflammatory medicine is enough to help curb the pain associated with many dental procedures performed today. Reducing inflammation is often enough to help dental patients through the roughest part of recovery without the need for opioid drugs.
Not only are they worried about drug overdoses, but many dentists feel as if the overuse of opioids during dental and oral procedures may be predisposing young adults to become addicted when they might not have been otherwise.
To make a dent in the epidemic of prescription abuse around America, it might not be about more legislation or laws to control substances; it might start with reducing the use of them. Dental procedures, which may introduce children too early and might predispose some to seek opioids out in the future, are one place where change can be made.