Oral surgeon using opioid alternative to treat pain

Lebanon

LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) – Getting your wisdom teeth removed can be a painful experience, but it can also introduce young people to opioids and potential addiction. That’s why an oral surgeon in Lebanon County is using a different kind of medicine to treat his patients.

“We take out an awful lot of wisdom teeth,” said Dr. Alex Balaci, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. “If we start looking at pain management, the traditional way was to give them narcotics for pain relief.”

Balaci says his office is often the first experience people have with getting narcotic prescriptions. 

“As we started seeing more and more problems with narcotics in this country, we had to find a better way to manage our patients during the recovery period,” Balaci said.

That’s why at Balaci Oral and Facial Surgery, doctors have started to use a drug called Exparel.

“Experal’s kind of like a novocaine,” Balaci said. “It’s long-lasting. It lasts anywhere from two to three days. We can inject it right into the area that we do the surgery.”

That two to three days is all that Balaci says most patients need to manage their pain.

“It’s a single dose vial, meaning one vial per patient,” Balaci said.

The drug has been FDA approved since 2011, but Balaci says it’s relatively new to oral surgery. 

“If we weren’t using Exparel, we give anywhere between 10 and maybe 15 tablets of a narcotic in which potentially they never even used,” Balaci said.

They’ve been using Exparel for about a year.

“Our patients came back, especially the parents came back, and they were saying they were amazed how well their children did after the surgery, with no need for any narcotics afterward,” Balaci said.

With schools letting out soon for the summer, Balaci says that means wisdom teeth season.

“We might see 20 to 40 patients a week to have their wisdom teeth removed,” Balaci said. “By using the Exparel, hopefully, this summer, we won’t have to give out any narcotics.”

Stopping potential addiction before it has a chance to start, Balaci hopes prescribing fewer painkillers helps to curb an epidemic.

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