February is National Children’s Dental Health month, an observance sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA) that brings together healthcare providers and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children and their caregivers.
This year, the ADA’s theme is “Brush and clean in between to build a healthy smile!” But for dentists and teens, the most important lesson of children’s dental health could come through increased education about a danger far more serious than plaque: an opioid prescription.
That’s because the first time that many American teens receive a prescription for opioid painkillers is at the dentist’s office. While teens in other countries are rarely prescribed opioids after dental surgeries like wisdom tooth removal, American teens are much more likely to be prescribed highly addictive drugs such as Vicodin.
And the danger of addiction is real. A majority of all heroin users started by taking prescription painkillers, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine.
A 2015 study in the journal Pediatrics found that prescribed opioid use makes teens 33% more likely to abuse opioids later on. A more recent study, published last December in JAMA Internal Medicine by the Stanford University School of Medicine, found that teens and young adults who receive an initial opioid prescription from their dentists or oral surgeons are at increased risk for opioid addiction as soon as the following year.Read More