Dentists Unnecessarily Expose Youth To Opioids For Wisdom Tooth Extraction Pain, Says Report
A recent report from The Daily Beast contends that dentists and oral surgeons continue to routinely and needlessly prescribe opioids to young people for wisdom tooth extraction pain.
In the article, a psychiatrist, Andrew Kolodny, states that dentists and oral surgeons are the top prescribers of prescription painkillers for youth aged 10-19 – a particularly vulnerable age group, due to the fact that their brains are still undergoing development.
Andrew Kolodny per The Daily Beast:
“There are studies that show that children who are exposed to opioids… after their wisdom teeth come out are much more likely to use opioids non-medically—basically recreationally, to abuse them later in life.”
Indeed, a University of Michigan survey from 2015 revealed that youth exposed to opioids by high school’s end had a 33% increased risk of opioid abuse following high school. One problem is that these young people experience a greater rush of dopamine than adults because of lower baseline dopamine levels in their brain.
Also, MRI brains scans show that within one month of daily painkiller user, the brain exhibits changes that can still be seen even after six months. The article notes that a brain under development is “even more plastic” and “therefore more at risk of structural changes which may be permanent.”
Currently, estimates show that dentists prescribe almost 10 percent of all prescription opioids nationwide, and many receive prescriptions for painkillers such as Vicodin after wisdom tooth surgery.
Kolodny believes that “this is a situation where they can’t necessarily trust their doctors and dentists” and that they have been “underestimating how addictive and dangerous these drugs are.”
Fortunately, however, some dentists are taking action against opioid-prescribing, and have begun administering Exparel instead, an anesthetic used during surgery. Beyond that, others are opting for acetaminophen and ibuprofen, a combination that some research has found to be at least as effective as opioids for reducing pain.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology