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Opioid Abuse Can Start at Your Dentist

In recent years, the opioid epidemic has grown across the nation. Many homes in the United States are being affected by it as the number of addictions, opioid overdose, and deaths from this plague continue to rise. Research has shown that the deaths are not limited to a particular age group, but are instead affecting all ages – just some groups more than others.


Death-rate from Opioids Is Increasing

Studies were made of the number of opioid-related deaths there were between 2001 and 2016. During that time, the number of deaths rose from about 9,500 in 2001 to more than 42,000 in 2016. This is an increase of more than 400 percent, and it seems that it continues to grow.

When it comes to the age groups with the greatest percentage of deaths, the statistics were clear. It also revealed that twice as many men were likely to die from opioid drugs than women. The age group that has been affected the most is those ranging in age from 25 to 34, with 257 deaths per million. The next group that has been affected the most were those in the group immediately above this one in age, ranging from 35 to 44, with 240 opioid-related deaths per million. 

Although it is not the highest percentage per million, the group that had the greatest increase in opioid-related deaths in 2016 were those who were between 55 and 64. This group had an increase of 754 percent during those same years. 

Another group that had an almost equal number of opioid-related deaths is those 65 and older. The thing that is rather startling about this increase among seniors is that other than those in the group ages 0 to 14, there are more people in this age group in the United States than in other age groups, having almost 49.4 million people in it. 


Opioids Being Prescribed More Often

Two things have been noted to have been occurring in prescriptions being given by dentists for dental treatments. During the years 2010 through 2015, dentists had prescribed a greater number of opioids to those who were receiving dental services between the ages of 11 to 18, and the doses were stronger than previously.


Dentists and Opioid Prescriptions

Currently, in the United States, it is believed that there were about 12.5 million people in 2015 who were abusing opioid pain medication. Dentists actually prescribe opioids far less often than medical doctors, only providing about 12 percent of the total prescriptions in any year. 

The largest problem with opioids appears to be from opioid pills that are not used. Others in the house have found the pills, and it has resulted in about 1,500 annual deaths. 


Changes in Opioid Use by the ADA

The American Dental Association (ADA) has provided new guidelines for dentists that are associated with their organization for prescribing opioid medication. The aim of these new guidelines is to reduce the opioid abuse across the US. 

The guidelines include three main elements. The first element is that the ADA will provide an ongoing education that is mandatory for dentists about opioids and other similar pain medications. 

A second aspect of the guidelines provides a limitation on how long the prescriptions should apply. The limit places a seven day-maximum for any prescription of opioids. 

The third element of the new guidelines indicates that the ADA will encourage and support dentists who get registered with drug monitoring programs. This will help to reduce the amount of opioid abuse among all ages and help dentists to only prescribe these painkillers when necessary.


Opioids vs. OTC Painkillers

In many situations where an over-the-counter (OTC) painkiller could be used, some dentists give prescriptions for opioids. For more minor dental services which are non-surgical, the use of opioids is often unwarranted. It has been discovered that as many as 31 percent of non-surgical office visits to dentists have received opioids in the past. Common OTC medications, in those cases, are usually strong enough to provide the needed relief from pain. 

The use of stronger painkillers is more desirable in cases of dental surgery because OTC medications just are not strong enough. These surgical procedures include tasks such as dental implants, tooth extractions, and root canals.


Dr. Vadivel and Opioid Drugs

One dentist, among many, who do not give out opioid prescriptions when a standard OTC non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) could be used, is Dr. Kumar Vadivel. He wants to help reduce the opioid epidemic and is careful to only prescribe opioid medications when necessary. 


If you live in the Carrollton, Dallas, Cedar Hill or Grapevine, TX areas, you can get dental services that will help you not become addicted to opioids. Prescriptions for painkillers are only given where necessary. Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, is a Board-certified Periodontist. For more information about his many dental services, or to set up an appointment, you can call (214)731-0123