Wisdom Teeth Surgery and Opioid Addiction
Millions of Americans go through dental surgery to have their wisdom teeth removed every single year. Generally speaking, these patients ages range anywhere from around 13 to 25. Wisdom teeth surgery is almost a coming of age scenario in America. Although age varies, and so does the need to even have wisdom teeth surgery, one thing that stays the same is no matter what the age is or how easy or difficult the process is, it’s going to hurt.
Not while you’re on the table, of course, we have enough funny “laughing gas” videos to prove that. The pain comes in when you leave the operation table following wisdom teeth surgery.
Since the dentist know this is going to come, they usually prescribe their patients with painkillers, mostly opioid painkillers. But what dentists didn’t always know was that prescribing such a young person an opioid painkiller opens the door for addiction later on. It can be a long-term price to pay following routine wisdom teeth surgery.
A recent study suggests that dental opioid prescriptions increase young adults and teens risk to opioid abuse by nearly 7%. Nearly 6% of the patients who were part of this study were diagnosed with an opioid abuse-related condition. That 6-7% of patients who fell into the risk group that was prescribed the dental opioid went on to be prescribed another opioid painkiller within that same year.
The study also finds that women were far more likely to develop an opioid abuse disorder with a whopping 10% of the women who were prescribed the post dental opioid receiving another opioid prescription within the same year. With the exposure to opioids across such a broad scale to such a young demographic who still have developing brains, which opioids affect, it’s no wonder that these numbers look the way they do.
No Good Deed
Although dentists surely don’t intend to put their patients at risk of opioid addiction following wisdom teeth surgery and similar operations, they should be held accountable for not being more mindful.
In the past, there wasn’t enough conclusive evidence nor general knowledge for a dentist to be aware of the dangers that opioid painkillers posed. Now, however, times have changed and so must the way that we look upon opioid prescriptions.
There are even studies that show that OTC (over the counter) painkilling medications work equally as well, if not better, than the highly addictive prescription opioids the dentist might prescribe.
Upon further investigation, it could very well be deemed an illogical maneuver to expose adolescents to opioids so early, as many dentists and other medical professionals already suggest.
The opioid epidemic present in America today is a derivative or a wide range of things. On a collective scale if we took better care of ourselves during the course of our lives and maintained healthy lifestyles, diseases, and conditions that cause chronic pain, which opioids are most prescribed for, would be slashed dramatically. Of course, not every need for an opioid prescription is a result of improper health practices, but many are.
On the other hand, the opioids themselves need to be the main focus of more study and more research so that we may better understand the nature of the drug as to lessen it’s addictive properties while still maintaining its ability to relieve pain. If you didn’t know, opioids work by targeting opioid receptors in your brain and attaching themselves to them. The opioids, in layman’s terms, tell your brain that you’re not in pain. When your brain believes it, the pain stops either completely or to some degree.
Since these opioids directly affect the chemistry of the brain itself that is what leads to your willpower being thrown under the bus once you develop an opioid dependency or disorder. It’s a tricky situation because the drugs work as prescribed which is why they continue to be prescribed. However there are risk attached, and the risk of developing an addiction is just the largest scale known side-effect of opioids.
The bottom line is that wisdom teeth surgery is a bigger component than we thought in opening the door of opioid addiction and disorders in young Americans today. Being mindful and informed about what drugs you’re taking and for what reason could easily be a large gap between healthy living and death by opioid overdose.