Surgeon General issues new report on addiction


More than 20 million people have substance use disorders, but only 1 in 10 ever receive specialty treatment, according to a new report from the U.S. surgeon general on addiction.

According to the surgeon general, substance misuse is the “use of any substance in a manner, situation, amount or frequency that can cause harm to.” The new report also says “prolonged, repeated misuse of a substance can lead to a substance use disorder, a medical illness that impairs health and function.” This is commonly referred to as addiction.

Sometimes after a dental procedure, your dentist may prescribe an opioid, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone, to help relieve pain. When used as prescribed, these medications are effective at minimizing post-operative pain. Unfortunately, these types of medications have also become a leading source of drug abuse.

If you are prescribed an opioid, ask your dentist or pharmacist the following questions before filling the prescription:

  • What is the goal of this prescription?

  • When and how should I take these?

  • How long should I take these drugs?

  • Are there any risks for me from this medication?

  • What do I do with any extra medication?

Over-the-counter medicines, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can also be effective for pain relief following dental procedures. To help your dentist decide what course of action is right for you, make sure you update your health history form, talk to your dentist about medications you are currently taking and ask plenty of questions. If you are in recovery or struggled with addiction in the past, tell your dentist.

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Tobacco's greatest threat to your health may be its association with oral cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that:

  • About 90 percent of people with mouth cancer and some types of throat cancer have used tobacco. The risk of developing these cancers increases as people smoke or chew more often or for a longer time.

  • Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.

  • About 37 percent of patients who continue to smoke after cancer treatment will develop second cancers of the mouth, throat or larynx. While only 6 percent of people who quit smoking will develop these secondary cancers.

  • Smokeless tobacco has been linked to cancers of the cheek, gums and inner surface of the lips. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of these cancers by nearly 50 times.7