What To Ask Your Dentist About Opioids

girl in a dentist's chair with mom and dentist

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Many teens get their first prescription for an opioid from a dentist or an oral surgeon. When taken exactly as directed, opioids are relatively safe and can reduce pain. But misusing opioids can lead to addiction and, in some cases, death by overdose.

Even taking opioids as prescribed, such as after having wisdom teeth removed, makes a teen 33 percent more likely to misuse opioids later in life. So, dentists are working to find solutions for dental pain that don’t involve opioids.

One of the best ways to reduce your chance of addiction to opioids is to talk to your dentist. Share your concerns, and specifically ask about the best way to manage your dental pain and reduce the chance of addiction. For example:

  • Ask if there’s an option other than prescription opioids to treat your pain. Some non-opioid medicines might offer the best balance between benefits and risks.
  • Tell the dentist about any substance use disorders or addiction in your family. This will help the dentist decide if opioids are safe for you.
  • Talk about your medical history and any medications you’re taking. It might not be safe to take opioids with some other medicines.

If your dentist prescribes an opioid pain medicine:

  • Ask when and how to take the medicine, and for how long.
  • Ask how quickly you can switch to non-opioid pain medicine.
  • Take the medicine according to the directions, and don’t share it with others.
  • Never take opioids with alcohol.
  • Safely dispose of unused medicine.

Learn more about drug use and your mouth.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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