That Visit to the Dentist May Be More Dangerous than You Think

That Visit to the Dentist May Be More Dangerous than You Think

Have you ever been to the dentist to have a tooth pulled or a root canal procedure and received a prescription for opioids to manage post-surgical pain?

Seems innocent enough – right?

Researchers from the University of Michigan have just published a study showing overdose rates two- and one-half times higher among patients who filled that prescription than those who did not.

Overdose rates were also higher for the family members of those who filled the prescription.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published the study.

The research team used data from 8.5 million dental procedures performed from 2011-2018. Approximately 27% of the patients treated filled a prescription for opioids.

The result?

The data shows 2,700 opioid overdoses within 90 days of the dental procedure. That’s the equivalent of three overdoses per 10,000 procedures.

According to lead researcher Kao-Ping Chua, M.D., Ph.D., “Our paper shows that when patients fill dental opioid prescriptions, the risk of opioid overdose increases both for themselves and their family members. This underscores the importance of avoiding dental opioid prescribing when non-opioids like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are effective options for pain control, as is the case for the majority of dental procedures. Our finding of increased overdose risk in family members also shows the importance of emphasizing safe storage and disposal when prescribing opioids to dental patients.”[i]

What’s the moral of this story?

Physicians and dentists should use these dangerous and addictive drugs only as a last resort. To do otherwise is to put their patients and their patient’s families in danger.

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