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Utah dentists decreasing opioid prescriptions

Photo: Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — A new study says many teens get their first exposure to narcotics after wisdom teeth surgery, raising concerns that early exposure could lead to opioid abuse down the road.

Nearly 7 percent of teens and young adults who got an opioid at the dentist’s office went on to take more of the drugs, the study found. But Dr. Val Radmall with the Utah Dental Association says they’ve been suggesting a combination of Tylenol and Ibuprofen instead for a while now.

“It’s kind of a push we’ve had for the past few years. And as we have this opioid crisis, it’s something we want to push further — to look for alternatives that are non-narcotic in base,” Radmall said.

Radmall says when they do give a prescription for opioids, it’s for acute, short-term pain, with far fewer pills than has traditionally been prescribed.

Radmall says even before the dental community began recommending a change to the way dentists prescribe medications, he noticed patients recovered better if they were not on narcotics.

“I’ve had more patients actually get sick on the medication,” he says,¬†“whereas when you go with the ibuprofen/acetaminophen combination, it’s easier on them and still takes care of their pain.”

Radmall says in 1998, dentist were the top specialty prescribers of opioid pain relievers, giving out 15.5 percent of all prescriptions. He says it’s now down to 6 percent and dropping.

“I do think that dentists have recognized there’s an opioid crisis, and we are self-regulating, decreasing the amount, and looking for alternatives,” he says.