A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer highlights data regarding the long-term use of opiates after wisdom tooth removal. This article suggests that teens and young adults are more likely to acquire additional narcotic medications after an initial encounter.

A recent publication from the NIH confirms that every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of an addiction to opioids including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

Drs. Dachowski, Sock, and Daly, of Pennsylvania Dental Implant and Oral Maxillofacial Surgery Associates, take this issue very seriously. The doctors do their part by employing several measures to aid in ending this crisis. They employ several levels of managing postoperative pain for their patients.

First is a complete review of medical history, anticipated surgery, and thorough pain medication review through the PDMP, Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

Second is education and frank discussion on the postoperative expectations and requirements for the appropriate pain management. The doctors offer nonnarcotic alternatives to pain management along with limited amounts of narcotic medications.

Third, they offer Exparel, (Bupivacaine liposome) a long-acting local anesthetic, recently approved for Oral Surgery use. This medication provides up to two postoperative pain-free days in the areas of surgery, allowing the patient to function, take nutrition, and most importantly, avoid or minimize narcotic pain medication. It is especially helpful in wisdom tooth extraction cases and dental implant cases, virtually avoiding the need for opioid medications.

Finally, it is crucial for the parents of teen and young adult patients to assume their parental role and be actively involved in their child’s surgical recovery. That includes monitoring and dispensing the medications as well as properly disposing of unused medications.