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Possible connection between dental work and opioid addiction

As anyone who has had their wisdom teeth pulled knows, it can be an excruciating procedure, leaving you in pain long after the dentist finishes. But, a new study suggests that prescription opioids following this procedure may lead to addiction in young patients.

That America is in the midst of an opioid crisis is recognized nationwide. Still, pain management demands often result in narcotics prescriptions following dental surgery. This opens the door to possible addiction, while some experts ask whether wisdom tooth extraction is even necessary.

What the research shows

Referencing a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, a recent report in The Washington Post observes a near 6 percent of almost 15,000 patients ages 16 to 25 who received an opioid prescription from a dentist post-surgery were “diagnosed with opioid abuse within a year.”

The authors of the Stanford University School of Medicine study question the necessity of opioids and ask if the benefit of removing wisdom teeth is proven to outweigh the risks. Possible connections between third molar extractions and the opioid epidemic may warrant continued study about the procedure and associated opioid prescriptions.

When dentistry can lead to trouble

Though this study does not discuss any possible legal ramifications associated with drug addiction, you may want to search for alternatives to prescription opioid painkillers like OxyContin or Vicodin after surgery if you or your child get your wisdom teeth removed. Few would dispute that addiction risks aren’t worthy of concern.

Legislators across the country regularly toughen laws to curb addiction and related drug crimes. Considering the warnings from researchers and the serious consequences of a criminal conviction, it might be wise to raise questions when narcotic painkillers are prescribed.