Opioids after wisdom teeth surgery linked to risk of long-term use

Young adults between ages 13 and 30 who fill an opioid prescription before or after having their wisdom teeth are 2.7 times more likely to demonstrate continued opioid use, according to a study published in JAMA.

The study, led by Calista Harbaugh, MD, research fellow and surgical resident at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, analyzed data of 56,686 wisdom tooth patients who filled their opioid prescription between 2009-15. A patient became a "persistent opioid" user if they filled their prescriptions two or more times the following year. They found 1.3 percent of all wisdom tooth patients became persistent opioid users.                                             

"Wisdom tooth extraction is performed 3.5 million times a year in the United States, and many dentists routinely prescribe opioids in case patients need it for post-procedure pain," Dr. Harbaugh said in a news release.

Within that 13 to 30 age windowpatients in their teens and twenties hold the highest possibility of persistent opioid use. Other factors also predicted risk of ongoing opioid use, such as a history of mental health, depression, anxiety or chronic pain conditions.

The researchers urged dentists and oral surgeons to consider prescribing nonopioid painkillers instead of opioids for wisdom tooth patients. If opioids are required, they should follow the American Dental Association's guidelines and prescribe less than a seven-day supply, the researchers concluded.

More articles on opioids: 

Postsurgery opioid overdose is 'rare'
Massachusetts sees spike in HIV cases among opioid users
FDA rejects Pain Therapeutics' opioid drug, shares plummet

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