Oral surgeons want their patients to remain well long after they’ve undergone treatment. Beyond performing the surgery correctly to avoid complications, this involves only prescribing pain medication when necessary, and only in the appropriate amounts. It’s well known that these medications can be habit-forming, and no oral surgeon wants his or her patients to struggle with substance abuse issues.
Fortunately, many oral surgeons understand how important it is to exercise good judgment when choosing whether or not to prescribe opioids. The following are some of the ways oral surgeons ensure they only prescribe these medications in a safe, reasonable manner:
Communicate with Patients
It would be a mistake for an oral surgeon to tell a patient that he or she won’t experience any post-surgery discomfort if this simply isn’t true. The fact remains, the recovery period for many oral surgery procedures does involve some degree of discomfort.
Patients are less likely to request prescriptions for opioids if they know ahead of time that they might experience some pain. As such, oral surgeons should discuss the true nature of the recovery period with their patients during the initial consultation. This way, they can help themselves and their patients prepare for the recovery period more effectively.
There are many other ways to treat the discomfort patients experience after treatment, including over-the-counter medications, mindfulness exercises, and even ice packs. Letting a patient know there probably will be some discomfort during the recovery period gives them the opportunity to look into all the different ways of managing it.
Use other Methods
Opioids are not the only substances that can reduce a patient’s discomfort following treatment. Organizations like the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons recommend that oral surgeons use alternative treatment methods when appropriate.
For example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce the pain a patient is likely to experience after undergoing a procedure. There are also several long-lasting local anesthetics that can delay the onset of pain and may even be effective at reducing its overall severity.
Start with Low Doses
Experts recommend starting with the lowest effective doses when it is necessary to prescribe opioids; the lower the dose, the lower the odds that a patient will develop a substance abuse problem. After all, an oral surgeon can simply prescribe more medication if the initial prescription isn’t strong enough to meet a patient’s needs.
Explain the Dangers
Patients should understand the reasons why their oral surgeon is reluctant to prescribe opioids. Although most people know that these substances can be habit-forming, they may not know just how dangerous they really are.
Thus, it makes sense for oral surgeons to share this information with their patients before deciding to prescribe an opioid medication. Patients who claim they are experiencing significant pain may be more willing to try other options if they understand why this option should be a last resort. Even if it means putting up with more discomfort than they anticipated, patients are often willing to go without an opioid prescription when they know how harmful these substances can be.
Study the Patient’s History
Some patients are more likely than others to misuse these substances. Therefore, an oral surgeon should evaluate every patient individually when considering whether an opioid prescription is necessary. By screening patients for a history of drug abuse, an oral surgeon can make a more informed decision about whether they would benefit from an opioid prescription, or whether it would do them more harm than good in the long run.
Dentists and oral surgeons alike are actively looking for ways to reduce the frequency with which they prescribe opioids. Consequently, many are researching ways they can help reduce pain in patients without relying on these medications.
It’s important for oral surgeons to stay abreast of these findings. The best oral surgeons already make an effort to learn how new tools and technologies can help them better serve patients. Learning about ways to treat discomfort without opioids is simply a natural extension of this principle.
Oral surgeons care about their patients. They don’t like the idea of knowing people are experiencing discomfort after a procedure. However, they also don’t like the idea of knowing a patient may develop a substance abuse problem. This is why it’s important for oral surgeons to educate themselves and their patients about all the risks. By following the methods mentioned in this article, oral surgeons can help patients stay comfortable without prescribing them medications they may not need.