Dentistry and Addiction

Dental Work Equals Addiction?

Several reports have surfaced on the internet lately, theorizing that dental work has been an open door between teens and opioid addiction.

The theory states that when teens are prescribed different painkillers after dental work, they get their first taste of opioids. Most dental patients have prescribed a regular dose, twice a day for example.

This usual dosage of highly addictive painkillers is nearly impossible to fight as a child with a developing brain. Even older teens will contend with the change in brain chemistry that releases dopamine, creating a rush feeling or a high.

The Journal of the American Medical Association completed a study involving teen opioid addiction and major dental procedures. They’ve concluded that “Among 754,002 individuals with continuous enrollment in 2015, 97,462 patients (12.9%) received 1 or more opioid prescriptions, of whom 29,791 (30.6%) received prescriptions supplied by a dental clinician.”

They go on to state, “Among the 14,888 individuals in the index dental opioid cohort, 1,021 (6.9%) received another opioid prescription 90 to 365 days later compared with 30 of 29 776 (0.1%) opioid-nonexposed controls and 866 opioid-exposed individuals (5.8%) experienced 1 or more subsequent health care encounters with an opioid abuse-related diagnosis compared with 115 opioid-nonexposed controls (0.4%)”

Let’s break this down for a second. To begin, the study shows that 12.9% of interviewed patients were prescribed an opioid after a procedure. Of that 12.9%, 30.6% of them stated that a dentist prescribed it.

Researchers studied 14,888 dental patients. Believe it or not, 1,021 patients went back for another prescription. It also found that 5.8% of those people had abuse issues.

What does this mean?

The results may not be definitive. However, we can assume that opioids prescribed by dentist play a key role in teen addiction.

To combat this growing issue, NBC reports that the CDC and FDA ask dental offices and clinics to make changes to their policies. These changes could include prescribing an alternative to opioids. Giving teens other options for painkillers may drastically decrease the number of teen opioid-related addiction.

In the meantime, we must rely on ourselves to determine what is best for our children and us. Should we avoid any procedures all together? Or should we opt for better, less addictive means of pain-relieving?

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