Dr. Bill Zouhary has been a dentist for 50 years and he admits he's seen it all, "The good, the bad and the ugly," says Zouhary. One of the ugliest era he's seen was the unprecedented prescribing of opiate pain medications in the both the dental and medical fields. The majority of it was just the accepted and perceived best practice based on the direction medicine and dentistry had gone when it came to aggressively treating pain. "When I was in dental school we were taught if you take out a tooth you prescribed 15 Tylenol 3's. There wasn't vicodin back then. Prescribing opioids used to be considered routine."
Dr. Lauren Bourell is a newly graduated oral surgeon. "I think patients expected to receive them, I think they expected to need them which we're finding is not always true," says Bourell. The standard of care now is to use a combination of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs alternating with Tylenol to treat dental pain, reserving opiates for serious oral surgery cases. "When I give them now, I always give them as a rescue," says Bourell. And that rescue is an average 3 day prescription. Dr. Zouhary adds a warning for parents, "If your kid's getting four wisdom teeth pulled, don't let them get 30 pain pills."