Study: Wisdom teeth removal linked to opioid addiction


(CBS/WPRI) — Five million Americans – mostly adolescents and young adults – have their wisdom teeth removed each year. Now, a recent study has found a link between the surgery opioid addiction.

University of Michigan pain researchers, Dr. Chad Brummet, said despite guidelines discouraging the use of opioid painkillers, many dentists and oral surgeons still prescribe them after surgery and he estimates 50,000 patients could get addicted each year as a result.

Brummet said even though research shows a combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen is superior to treat pain, dentists are still prescribing too many opioids to young adults.

Related: Signs of Drug Abuse »

“These kids tend to be generally healthy, and for many, dental care, such as wisdom teeth extraction is the first opioid exposure. So, if we were to do some back of the envelope math, it could be like 50,000 kids each year becoming new chronic opioid users after something simple like wisdom tooth extraction,” Brummet said.

Dr. Brummet said many dentists and surgeons still prescribe the opioids as a backup. However, he said research found simply filling an opioid prescription after wisdom tooth surgery more than doubled the odds of continued use among patients who had never used those painkillers before.

In light of the opioid epidemic, the American Dental Association has released updated guidelines recommending alternative pain relievers and a maximum seven-day supply only when opioids are necessary.

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