Dentists are not often known for dosing out drugs to people that cause addiction. It is lesser-known that some of the medications prescribed for dental procedures can be addictive. Percocet, one of the commonly used painkillers, has the potential for dependence. Most people don’t discuss the potential for addiction from drugs at the dentist’s office. Opioids are one of the main reasons addiction takes over people’s lives after procedures. This shadow side to dental drugs should come into the light so more people are aware of the challenges they may face sitting in the dentist’s chair.
Why Addiction Happens
Dentists are the leading prescribers opioids, especially for things like tooth extractions. The highest number of painkiller prescriptions go to teenagers, followed by young adults over age 18. The rates skyrocket due to the high risk of addiction with opioids. There are medical and dental practices that give people extra medication to avoid seeing the patient again but this causes lots of problems for them to just refill it whenever they want. Half of all dental patients get relief from over-the-counter medication so the dentists don’t always know how to prescribe, without overprescribing, and try to keep everyone safe.
What Happens After
To combat the epidemic, dental schools are changing how they provide medication for patients in the chair. Surgical patients are given detailed explanations of the best way to care for and dispose of medication. They write two-week prescriptions for opioids that they cannot refill. Prescribing medication is about education and dispensing issues. When teaching students in dental school, it is about how to properly dose those who might need more medication and adjust it for those who say they need less. A prescription for opioids is important to follow, but it can still lead to issues of dependence. People can recover from addiction, but it may catch them, and their families, by surprise to deal with the struggle after a procedure that seemed so simple. Some key things to note:
- Take medication only as prescribed and necessary
- Be wary of family members seeking more of the drug after the time period they should be feeling less pain or better
- Doctors and parents or loved ones need to work together and communicate about needs and issues
There is more work to be done on educating everyone, but the tide is changing in favor of dentists providing fewer opioids and more OTC drugs where necessary. It is also good to check in with teens and young adults, as well as older adults, about how they feel following a dental procedure. If they have been addicted to drugs in the past, it is good to monitor pain relief options for them. Likewise, it is important to monitor pain relief for people in general and see what alternatives may exist to getting through dental procedures without opioids.
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