Dental health plays significant role in opioid epidemic

The CDC estimates that each day more than 130 overdose deaths occur in the U.S. from opioids, with the economic costs exceeding $500 billion annually, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

Dentists have had a large part in growing the epidemic, but also are crucial to curbing it. Here are four considerations for dentists, according to the Albuquerque Journal:

1. Wisdom teeth: An estimated 5 million people had their wisdom teeth removed in 2017. For many adolescent patients, opioid prescriptions are written following removal surgery. A Stanford (Calif.) University study found teens can end up suffering opioid dependency following wisdom teeth removal surgery.

2. Limit supply: Dentists can prescribe a range of prescriptions. The CDC recommends limiting prescriptions to three days and fewer than 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day.

3. Alternative pain medications: Over the counter relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are recommended alternatives to opioids. These medications are often cited to be equally effective in managing pain.

4. Proper disposal: For patients who do not use all their prescriptions, recommend they return the drugs to their pharmacy. The CDC estimates around 70 percent of misused opioid prescriptions are obtained, stolen or purchased from friends and family.

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