E.R. Painkiller Prescriptions for Dental Patients on the Rise

In emergency rooms across the country, patients complaining of toothaches and other dental pains are prescribed painkillers. Doctors suspect that in many of these cases, the patients are abusing the drugs.

Painkillers were prescribed in three of four dental-related emergency room visits from 1997 to 2007, according to an analysis of the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, The New York Times reports. In that period, the number of painkiller prescriptions for dental patients in emergency rooms increased 26%.

Emergency room doctors lack the tools, such as dental X-ray machines, to determine whether patients are actually suffering from dental problems. Writing a prescription for Vicodin is often the quickest and easiest way to get such patients out of the emergency room.

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