With children and young adults off from school, the summer is generally a preferred time to have common surgeries like wisdom tooth removal and tonsillectomies. However, these procedures are often associated with prescription opioids to manage pain, a concerning reality as our country’s growing dependence on these highly addictive medications deepens. Fortunately, there are now non-opioid options available to achieve long-lasting pain control to help patients get through the first few days after surgery when pain is often at its peak.

Despite the fact that opioids can be misused, abused and have significant side effects, utilization of these medications in the U.S. continues to be a problem. It has been documented that for many young adults, the first exposure to opioids occurs following wisdom teeth extraction, a daunting truth since nearly 85 percent of young adults will have their wisdom teeth removed. Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to break through the gum or “erupt” at the back of your mouth. They usually appear between the age of 17 and 25. If you’re experiencing pain, feeling pressure caused by the wisdom teeth or have an impacted tooth, your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend removing your wisdom teeth.

A tonsillectomy is also a very common procedure among children, with 500,000+ surgeries performed annually in patients 17 years old and younger. Signs that a child may require a tonsillectomy include snoring and disrupted sleep. The standard of care for managing moderate-to-severe pain after these procedures has always been opioids. Planning ahead, especially when it comes to pain control, is an important step when preparing for wisdom tooth removal or tonsillectomy surgery.

The following questions will help you engage your child’s surgeon in a discussion about what pain control options might be right and what you can expect during the recovery process.

  • How will my postsurgical pain be managed?
  • How can I minimize the need for opioids? What non-opioid options do I have?
  • What do you need to know about me to help customize my pain management?
  • What happens when the medications from surgery wear off?
  • What can I expect in the first few days after my procedure?
  • When can I get back to my normal activities?

When speaking with a doctor offer as much background as possible. Whether its providing specific examples of what you (or your child is feeling), sharing your concerns or asking for more clarity if you don’t understand what has been outlined to you. Also, be honest about your health habits. This will help your surgeon determine the true cause of your symptoms.

If someone you know is planning to have surgery for wisdom tooth removal or a tonsillectomy, talk to a doctor about non-opioid options that can help manage pain as there are now long-acting, non-opioid medications to treat pain in patients as young as 6 years old that can help reduce or, in some cases, eliminate the need for opioids.