Opioid Overdose Rate Significantly Higher Among Dental Patients

A study of dental patients who received opioid painkillers following a procedure recently was released. The study revealed that dental patients prescribed opioid painkillers following a procedure had an overdose rate upwards to two and a half times higher than similarly situated people who obtained another type of pain killing medication. The study was undertaken by researchers at the University of Michigan between 2011 and 2018.

Basic Facts about Dental Patient Opioid Overdose Research Study

Basic facts elucidated from the study are revealing:

  • Investigators analyzed data from 8.5 million dental procedures.
  • Patients undergoing dental procedures included both adults and teenagers.
  • Almost 27 percent of the patients considered in the study were prescribed and filled prescriptions for an opioid painkiller.
  • The most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers were oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Opioid Overdose Rate of Dental Patients

The opioid overdose rate of patients underdoing dental procedures is alarming. The University of Michigan study results regarding the overdose rate are:

  • 2,700 overdoses occurred within 90 days of patients experiencing a tooth extraction.
  • 119 overdoses occurred within that same time period for patients undergoing some other type of dental procedure.
  • The overdose rate was deemed to be 5.8 per every 10,000 dental procedures.
  • The overdose rate computes to about three opioid overdoses for every 10,000 dental procedures.

Opioid Overdose Risk Increased Among Family Members

The study also revealed the opioid overdose rate was higher among family members who received opioid prescriptions following some type of dental procedure. For this component of the comprehensive study, University of Michigan researchers utilized date compiled from 3.5 million privately insured patients who underwent dental procedures.


The study found a markedly higher opioid overdose rate among individuals who had a family member prescribed an opioid painkiller for a dental procedure. The opioid overdose rate among family members of individuals who underwent a dental procedure and obtained an opioid prescription was 1.7 overdoses per 10,000 dental procedures.

Of the total group of dental procedure cases included in the family study group, 400 family members of patients were treated for opioid overdoses. A shocking 42 percent of the opioid overdoses involved a child of the dental patient. 25 percent involved the spouse of person who underwent a dental procedure and obtained an opioid prescription. The remaining cohort of family members who overdosed consisted of siblings and parents of dental patients.

One other alarming piece of data came out of the study. In some instances, more than one person in a household experiences an opioid overdose following a family member undergoing a dental procedure and receiving an opioid prescription that was filled.

High Risk Cohorts of Dental Patients

The University of Michigan dental patient opioid overdose research study identified three cohorts of patients that are at higher risk for opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose following being prescribed the drug following a procedure. These are:

  • Patients with diagnosed mental health issues.
  • Patients with substance use disorder.
  • Patients with Medicaid health coverage.

As a consequence of the disturbing data pulled from the study, University of Michigan researchers noted “the importance of avoiding dental opioid prescribing when non-opioids like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are effective options for pain control, as is the case for the majority of dental procedures.”

If you believe that you or a loved on was improperly prescribed opioids following a dental or some other type of procedure, the legal team at The Doan Law Firm is available to discuss and evaluate your situation. You can connect with a drug injury lawyer any time of the day or night by calling (800) 349-0000, We keep our phoneline staffed around the clock, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, including all major holidays.

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