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The Best Alternatives to Opioids for Dental Pain

The Best Alternatives to Opioids for Dental Pain

One of dentists’ biggest concerns these days is how to help patients effectively manage pain during dental procedures and after leaving the office. This is an especially difficult objective in recent years as the medical community in Pennsylvania, and throughout the country, deals with a devastating opioid crisis.

Thankfully research continues to shine new light on how we can best care for patients and ensure that visiting the dentist is as pleasant an experience as possible.

A Combination of 2 Non-Prescription Pain Relievers Are the Best Solution for Dental Pain

An article published in last month’s edition of the Journal of the American Dental Association over-the-counter pills may be the most effective way to prevent and relieve discomfort associated with dental work. Surprisingly, the new study shows that taking 2.Ibuprofen 400 mgs (like Advil or Motrin) along with 1 or 2 Acetaminophen 500mgs -1000mgs (commonly known as Tylenol) is more successful at reducing pain and have longer lasting effects when compared to opioids, such as Vicodin.. Taking this combination of Ibuprofen along with the Acetaminophen is more effective than taking either one alone, and compares to taking Tylenol with codeine.

The study was carried out by a team of professors of dentistry and medical researchers from the American Dental Association (ADA) and highly esteemed universities in Pennsylvania and Ohio. It compiled the data from multiple randomized tests of nearly 40 different oral medication combinations and dosages used to manage the most intense post-operative dental pain, such as wisdom tooth extraction.

Based on the data collected, the recommended treatment for dental pain is 400 mg of Ibuprofen taken together with 500-1,000 mg of Acetaminophen every six hours. This combination is the most effective solution and it has also been found to be extremely safe, with a low risk of even minor side effects.

Why Opioids Should Be Avoided

The results of this study demonstrated that non-prescription pain relievers are not only more effective for most adult patients recovering from dental procedures, but they are safer than opioids. Researchers also discovered that prescription opioids had many more negative side effects for patients of all ages; these ranged from drowsiness, constipation, nausea and vomiting to respiratory problems and depression.

“What we know is that prescribing narcotics should be a last resort,” explained Anita Aminoshariae, an associate professor in the Department of Endodontics in the dental school at Case Western Reserve University and one of the authors of this newly published research study. “No one should go home in pain, but opioids should not be the first choice.”

The United States is currently battling a record opioid epidemic. Millions of Americans have been prescribed opioids for pain relief and more than 115 people die every day in our country as a result of an opioid overdose, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. In fact, the CDC has published a guideline Prescribing Opioids for Pain and has recently called on the entire medical community to work together to ensure that patients have access to safer pain remedies and to decrease the amount of misuse, abuse and overdoses from prescription medications.

Dentists Are Working to Find Better Pain Management Solutions

The majority of opioid prescriptions are currently prescribed by physicians for patients dealing with chronic pain. Licensed dentists may also prescribe Opioids for managing temporary pain from tooth decay, extraction, root canals and other procedures. Just 20 years ago, dentists were most likely to give patients opioid pain medications, but prescriptions for these pills have drastically decreased over the past six years.

The American Dental Association has effectively taken the lead among the nation’s main healthcare professional organizations. This year in particular, the ADA has made a focused effort to address the issue of opioids in dentistry. For example, the study on the effectiveness of over-the-counter pills for acute dental pain is just one of four cover articles in the April 2018 edition of the Journal of the American Dental Association related to opioid prescription in dental practice.

Recently, the ADA recommended a new policy for dental professionals regarding opioids which includes prescription restrictions for dosage and duration, mandatory continuing education courses and the implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs for dentists. The overall goal is to “promote the appropriate use of opioids and deter misuse and abuse.”

Dentists are encouraged to stay up to date on all of the new research being done in the field of pain management to ensure that their practice is employing the most effective and safest solutions for patients with dental pain. At Briglia Dental, we believe that dental visits should be pain free.

If you have a tooth that is causing you problems or you are experiencing pain, call us today at (610) 692-4440 to schedule a full exam and consultation to discuss the best treatment options.

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