Dentists Urge Against Prescribing Opioids to Patients for Pain Management

Approximately 31% of people say they’re concerned about the way their teeth look, but dentists across the U.S. are becoming more concerned about how pain after dental procedures is treated.

Almost 165,000 deaths in the U.S. every year are the result of opioid overdoses, and still, countless other people are suffering from addiction. Health officials report that a large source of this issue is the misuse of prescription painkillers, such as those provided by dentists after a surgical procedure.

And what’s worse, a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that dentists are responsible for an estimated 12% of fast-acting opioid pain reliever prescriptions. The number falls just short of general practitioners as the top prescribers of opioids.

Dr. Joel Funari, a dentist who specializes in oral and maxillofacial surgery in Devon, PA, explained that when he began practicing dentistry almost 30 years ago, prescribing narcotics to patients in quantities of more than 30 was fairly common after an extraction. Now, he deems that practice as “excessive prescribing.”

“Dentists don’t like to see patients in pain,” Funari said. “We tend to be compassionate people and I think we were falling into a trap we were creating ourselves.”

Other dentists, such as Dr. Mojgam Fajiram, DDS, of Sutton Advanced Cosmetic Dentistry, have reported seeing patients come in and asking for specific painkillers to be prescribed after their procedures. But Fajiram and Funari both believe that patients don’t truly need opioids to manage their pain after a dental procedure.

Fajiram explained that simply combining a dose of acetaminophen and ibuprofen will actually decrease inflammation and ease pain without many of the adverse effects that prescription painkillers have. Some of those side effects include nausea, headaches, vomiting, and ultimately addiction.

“Even for gum surgery, even for extraction, unless it’s impacted, you just don’t need to take any opioid,” Fajiram said. He also added that parents with children undergoing dental procedures should be particularly vigilant about where the pills are placed and how they’re distributed.

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