NEW ORLEANS -- Summer break is a time when high school and college students have their wisdom teeth removed.

But because of the epidemic of addiction and deaths from pain killers, oral surgeons say there is another way to control post-op pain. And the medication can be used for many other surgical procedures, too.

In the last year, oral maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Michael Block has changed the way he helps patients manage post procedure pain.

"What we used to do is give them the prescriptions for narcotics beforehand,” said Block, who works at the Center for Dental Reconstruction in Metairie. “Now we give it to them on the day of surgery because we don't want any abuse and we don't have any problems"

And to even further reduce the chances of abuse or addiction to pain killers, he only prescribes a limited amount with no refills.

"Narcotics -- some people are very sensitive to it. I have patients who take one week's worth and then they want two more weeks, and I say, 'No.' And they look at me like I'm a mad man, or somebody mean, but I just don't want them addicted," he said.

"A survey taken by our national organization is, showed that our members have been decreasing the number of opioids prescribed for over the past year, probably around 50 percent decrease," said Dr. B.D. Tiner, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in San Antonio, Texas.

And now oral surgeons in the United States who do office procedures are turning to a pain reliever hospitals like West Jefferson Medical Center have been using for a few years.

Exparel is injected into soft tissue, like the gums, after the procedure. In a time-release fashion, patients get an anesthesia effect for a couple of days. It keeps them from having that breakthrough pain when the surgical anesthesia wears off in a few hours, so they don't need a prescription pain killer when they get home.

"It's a drug that's similar to Novocain, and everyone has had Novocain given when their jaws numb for a filling by their dentist at some point in their life," Tiner said.

But Block said not all insurance pays for Exparel. If you pay out of pocket, that can add $300 to $400 to your procedure. So, he finds that simple over-the-counter ibuprofen, like Advil or Motrin, is safe and has no nausea often associated with narcotics.

"I tell you ibuprofen is better than the narcotics,” Block said. “That's well documented.”

Exparel is approved for people 18 and older, so consult with your surgeon and insurance company about this alternative to narcotics.

Answers to other questions about oral surgery can be found here: