Wisdom Teeth and Opioid Abuse

Around five million teens and young adults have their wisdom teeth removed each year. It’s a simple and common procedure, but a new risk has emerged. After the surgery, the patient leaves with a prescription of painkillers. These opioids are rather standard, but according to a new study, six percent of young patients are diagnosed with opioid abuse within one year of the initial prescription.

While a six percent increase does not necessarily seem high, it’s significant when you realize how many people it affects. Young patients are especially vulnerable to the effect of opioids. The prefrontal cortex of the brain—which relates to decision-making—won’t fully mature until you are in your mid–20s. Due to this concern, researchers hope their findings will encourage the dental community to minimize the length of painkiller prescriptions and to pursue the development of non-addictive painkillers.

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