RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (KTHV) – An oral surgeon in Russellville is tackling the opioid crisis head-on by giving his patients an alternative pain medication. At Lakeside Oral in Russellville, Dr. Forrest Bale performs hundreds of procedures every year.
"We kind of specialize in the removal of wisdom teeth, so we see a lot of young adults between the ages of 18-25,” Dr. Bale said.
He said for many of his patients, it is their first time in surgery.
"For decades, the optimal way to manage post operational discomfort has been with the use of opioids,” Dr. Bale said.
But Dr. Bale said prescribing opioids to his patients is a concern. He said this is the first time a lot of his patients are also prescribed opioids like codeine.
“There is some research that suggests this is a time period in our development where we may be a little bit more vulnerable to addiction,” he said.
Dr. Bale now offers a new way to manage pain. He gives patients the option of Exparel.
"Exparel is a non-opioid numbing medication and it releases a controlled amount of local anesthesia over a period of time,” he said.
The local anesthetic is a onetime use applied by the doctor during surgery so patients don't have to worry about taking pain medication when they get home.
"It is designed to remain within the soft tissues, around the surgical area, to provide pain relief for up to three days,” Dr. Bale said.
Dr. Bale said Lakeside Oral started using it over the summer. He said so far about 30 patients have used it.
"What we have found with many of the patients that have chosen to use it, are able to get by without or minimal narcotic pain medication at all,” he said. “Which is really fantastic because those patients are also avoiding the nasty opioid side effects like post-operative nausea and vomiting, sleepiness and drowsiness.”
Darci Peel’s 18-year-old daughter opted for Exparel when she had her wisdom teeth removed. Peel said it worked extremely well for her.
"She took one and a half pain pills after having four wisdom teeth removed,” Peel said. 'If she ever had to have another extraction she would definitely use it."
Dr. Bale said having the option of Exparel has been extremely good for his practice.
"Because we're prescribing very few or no narcotic pills, there's much less chance of there being left over pills that could be stored in someone's medicine cabinet before a family member or friend comes across them and that turns into abuse or a problem.",” he said.
Dr. Bale said Exparel is only FDA approved for patients 18 or older. He also said not many dental insurances cover it, so check before you ask.