Greece dentist goes 'opioid-free' in response to addiction crisis


    Sign on the door of the dental practice of Dr. Susan Bracker says the office as a "no opioid" policy. <p>{/p}

    Greece, N.Y. - The sign on the door is the first thing patients see. It says, in part: "We are an opioid-free practice."

    Dr Susan Bracker says it's also a sign of the times.

    "I think this has affected so many people. There's not a person out there who doesn't know someone who has died from addiction," she told 13WHAM's Jane Flasch.

    A new study suggests teenagers are less likely to become addicted to opioids by rooting around in their parent's medicine cabinet than they are by having their wisdom teeth pulled.

    Dentists write fewer than seven percent of opioid prescriptions, yet are the leading prescribers for teenagers - mostly due to the removal of wisdom teeth. Dentists pull 10 million wisdom teeth a year, mostly from patients ranging in age from 13 to 30. The Journal of the American Medical Association says 80 percent of those young people fill the opioid prescription they receive.

    A year later - nearly six percent are diagnosed with opioid abuse. Among the hardest hit are those 16 to 18.

    "My kids have had their wisdom teeth out and they never had to take the opioids," said Jeanette Cutler, who lives in Penn Yan. "I think the pills might have been offered and they just didn't take them."

    The American Dental Association says five different studies prove taking over-the-counter Tylenol and Advil together is actually more effective on dental pain.

    "I think we've been programmed that, unless it's a prescription, it isn't as good," said Dr. Bracker. "In most of those kinds of extractions, you really don't need it. Most kids heal really fast and easily."

    The ADA recommends dentists limit opioids to a prescription covering no more than seven days. Dr. Bracker says she breaks the "no opioid" rule for extreme cases - yet only provides doses of the narcotic to cover three days.

    "You never give it without educating that this can be addictive, that we're only giving you a few days at a time and only if you need it," she said.

    In the first three months of the new policy, she said few patients have requested an exception. Jeanette Cutler approves.

    "The prescriptions are freely written, which is a little disappointing. So I'm happy they're paying a lot more attention to them," she said.

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