Old habits die hard.

Even as the opioid abuse epidemic continues to get worse and we continue to hear about the dangers posed by opioid pain medication, many dentists in New Jersey continue to prescribe opioids to relieve pain after wisdom tooth extractions and other procedures.

Angelo Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, said  the majority of opioid prescriptions written by dentists are for young people between the ages of 10 and 19.

“This is very troubling because we also know that just a short supply of opiates... as little as five days, can lead to dependency," he said.

“When a young person is prescribed an opioid for a dental procedure they have a much greater chance of becoming dependent and addicted to those opiates on a long term basis. And we also have learned there are many non-opioid alternatives that can address dental pain as effectively as an opiate.”

Alternatives include over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol and Advil.

He pointed to a recent study conducted by researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California that found 6 percent of kids given opioid pain medication after a dental procedure became dependent on and addicted to opioids after one year.

Valente added it’s critically important to continue to spread the word about the dangers posed by opioid medications.

He noted in April he Partnership will be offering “an online educational webinar for all prescribers, dentists, doctors, nurse practitioners, which will provide information about how alternatives may be a very good option.”

He stressed we have made great strides in the battle against the opioid crisis “but the key is being able to engage and get as many dentists and other prescribers of opiates to become informed about these alternatives and to look at alternatives as a first line of defense.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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