If you’re due for wisdom teeth surgery, don’t be too trusting of the Vicodin prescription your oral surgeon recom- mends for pain. People between the ages of 13 and 30 are nearly three times more likely to continue use after their initial post-surgical opioid prescriptions.
Dentists are one of the most frequent prescribers of opioids in the United States. However, many researchers sug- gest their perscribing of opioids is un- necessary. A study published last month in e Journal of the American Den- tal Association reports that the use of nonsteroidal anti-in ammatory drugs
(NSAIDs), such as Ibuprofen, are just as, if not more e ective than opioids for acute pain management.
NSAIDs work by inhibiting sub- stances in the body that promote pain, in ammation, and fever. Studies have shown that these medications, while still e ective, generate signi cantly less adverse e ects (like drowsiness, nausea, and trouble breathing) than do opioids.
Vicodin is a combination of acet- aminophen (Tylenol) and hydrocodone (an opioid) and has been considered the “gold standard” of pain management after oral procedures, such as wisdom teeth surgery. Opioids work by bind- ing to opioid receptors on nerve cells and mimicking endorphins, e ectively reducing the spread of pain signals through the nervous system. Contin- ued use of opioids can lead to tolerance, meaning more is needed to create the same e ect. is can then lead to depen- dence and, eventually, addiction. About
2.1 million Americans live with opioid use disorder.
“In 2017 alone, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, mak- ing it a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States,” according to the CDC. “Of those deaths, almost 68% involved a prescription or illicit opioid.”
A study published by the CDC in 2017 found that after only the third day of taking prescription opioids, the prob- ability of chronic opioid use increased rapidly. Most oral surgeons write a sev- en-day prescription after wisdom teeth surgery.
“After only my second day post-sur- gery, my pain had mostly gone away, and I felt too nervous to keep taking my Vicodin pills,” commented Lizzie Swey- er, a senior who had her wisdom teeth removed this past winter break. “I had heard stories of people my age becoming addicted, and I didn’t want to risk it.”
In addition to the potential for an oral surgery patient to become a chronic opioid user, the over-prescription of these drugs increases the opportunity for drug diversion, an illegal practice of transferring a prescribed drug to some- one else.
According to a study published by Drug and Alcohol Dependence, over 100 million opioid analgesic pills are left unused after outpatient oral surgery ev- ery year in the United States. ese pre- scriptions are a major source of diverted pills and further drive the problem of the opioid epidemic in the U.S.
The researchers from this study made their position on the topic clear: “With the increasing concern about prescrip- tion opioid abuse within the United States, oral surgeons and other dental clinicians have a moral responsibility to limit opioid exposure, to explain the risks of opioid misuse, and to improve patient education on drug disposal.”