New Research Unveils Link Between Wisdom Teeth Removal and Long Term Opioid Use

September 21, 2018

Prescription opioids with many bottles of pills in the background. Concepts of addiction, opioid crisis, overdose and doctor shoppingWisdom teeth removal is an outpatient procedure performed on 5 million Americans each year, and researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered a potentially dangerous link between opioid prescriptions and long-term use after surgery, Bite Magazine says.

The findings are published in JAMA, and it centralized around younger people by examining insurance data. The study looked at ‘opioid naivete’ — “those who hadn’t had an opioid prescription in the six months before their wisdom teeth came out, and who didn’t have any other procedures requiring anaesthesia in the following year,” says Bite.

The study found that wisdom tooth removal patients between the ages of 13 and 30 who filled a prescription for opioids immediately prior to or after having the surgery were almost 2.7 times more likely to still be filling the prescription weeks or even months afterward.

Dentistry is one of the 10 most trusted and ethical professions in the United States, and many dentists regularly prescribe opioids to help with post-surgery pain. The study also found that patients in their later teenage years or 20s had the highest chance of ongoing opioid use in comparison to middle- and high school-aged patients.

“Until now, we haven’t had data on the long-term risks of opioid use after wisdom tooth extraction,” the authors of the study wrote. We now see that a sizable number go on to fill opioid prescriptions long after we would expect they would need for recovery, and the main predictor of persistent use is whether or not they fill that initial prescription.”

If you’re wondering how to relieve your wisdom tooth extraction pain naturally and without the use of opioids, there are several effective strategies. Start with something simple, like an ice pack, and if pain persists, try a salt water rinse; just dissolve a couple tablespoons of salt into some boiled water, and once it’s cooled enough, swirl it around the mouth for several minutes before spitting.

“Salt water has natural disinfectant properties. A 2010 study showed that rinsing the mouth with salt water can help reduce bacteria. Sometimes, a build-up of bacteria in the broken gums around wisdom teeth can be the cause of pain. As such, rinsing with salt water may help treat the infection and reduce the discomfort,” writes Lana Burgess on Medical News Today.

If you have concerns about opioid use for wisdom tooth removal pain, discuss them with your dentist.

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One Response to New Research Unveils Link Between Wisdom Teeth Removal and Long Term Opioid Use

  1. Colin Reply

    September 23, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    A really interesting Article
    Dr Colin Priestland
    NQ Suegical Dentistry

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