Danger of Opioids After Dental Work: Michigan Scientist Reports

Updated on June 5, 2021

A new study by a leading Michigan researcher states that a prescription for opioid painkillers following dental work is dangerous for patients and their families. The new study from the University of Michigan warns that the risk of overdose increases for the patient and their family members.

The University of Michigan study by Dr. Kao-Ping Chua was based on data from over 8 million Americans who had dental work between 2011 and 2018. All of these participants had Medicaid or a form of private dental insurance.

Findings of the Opioid Study

The risk of overdose was significant. The study showed there were 2,700 overdoses following the prescribed medication. and the rate of overdose was higher among people who filed their prescriptions earlier, within three days of the dental procedure. Dentists in the US file prescriptions for around 11 million opioids a year, according to experts. This suggests that there could be 1,700 cases a year that are linked to dental work and associated opioid prescribing.

The family members of the patient were also at risk, the researcher explained. Many of these issues could be avoided by focusing on education about safe storage of medications and secure disposal of unwanted items.

The study author concluded that it was important for dentists to avoid prescribing opioid painkillers when there are excellent non-opioid alternatives available, such as ibuprofen.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a controlled, prescription medication that must be prescribed by a physician. Opioids include codeine, morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl. Opioids are useful in a pain management regime as they provide rapid and significant relief from pain. The patient should be able to take opioids without becoming dependent on them. Therefore, medical professionals must vet the patient to assess if this is the case. 

When are Opioids Helpful?

Dental surgery can be uncomfortable and recovery may be long and painful, according to a dentist in Saginaw Michigan. The gums and mouth are sore, making drinking and eating difficult. Dentists need to manage pain so the patient can return to normal life as rapidly as possible. Opioids are associated with addiction, overdose, and other issues, so prescribing them should be done with care. Dentists may consider these painkillers as a last resort for acute and unbearable pain. Less severe pain can be easily treated with other methods. You should not be prescribed opioids for toothache, for example.

Dangers of Opioid Painkillers in Dentistry

Opioids can make you drowsy. They can also slow the heart rate, and they foster dependence. Withdrawal from opioid dependence can be life-threatening and requires significant medical assistance. This narcotic can also be easily obtained through illegal means, making addiction more likely. Experts know that prescription opioids are problematic when prescribed in the wrong circumstances, and can lead to significant social and health problems.

Effective Pain Management

Procedures like root canals, extractions, and wisdom tooth removal all require pain relief in the days following the operation. But pain management should be managed carefully by the dentist. Opioids should not be the first resource, rather the last. Be sure to ask your dentist for their medication plan following surgery, and don’t let pain put you off having the procedure carried out. 

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