A new dental drug could help oral surgeons fight the opioid epidemic

Oral surgeons in Hawaii try new tactic to avoid prescribing dangerous opioid

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ryan Sasaki had four wisdom teeth removed. For anyone who’s had it done, the pain and swelling afterward can be difficult to endure.

“Wisdom teeth are famous — maybe infamous may be the right word — for the post-op experience,” said oral surgeon Dr. Craig Yamamoto.

Now the oral surgeons at Oral Surgery Hawaii are using Exparel injections after surgery which numb the lower jaw.

"It acts as a local anesthetic that lasts for three days and the goal is to get them through the first three days where they are having that severe discomfort to the point where they are not needing narcotics," said oral surgeon Dr. Kitamura.

Sasaki says he felt so good, all he needed for pain was a little ibuprofen.

"It was actually a lot better than I was expecting. I only had to use the pain killer once," he said.

"The demand for the opioid medicine basically goes away," said Dr. Yamamoto.

A new study shows teen deaths from opioid poisoning has tripled in the U.S. so these dentists want to do their part to reduce and even eliminate prescriptions for powerful and addictive opioids.

"It's an epidemic. It really is and everybody has a stake in what's happening," said Dr. Yamamoto.

These oral surgeons say the numbing injections work so well virtually all of their patients who've had their wisdom teeth removed don't need powerful opioids to kill the pain.

“The biggest problem that I’m finding is that they feel great. They try to go surfing, diving. You really need to pull back and wait because they have fresh surgical sites,” said Dr. Kitamura.

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