Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen Deemed More Effective Than Opioids for Dental Pain

For many years, dental patients have been using opioids to treat pain from procedures like root canals and wisdom teeth removal. But a new analysis on more than 460 published studies reveals that opioids may not be the most effective or longest lasting pain relief options for people suffering acute dental pain.

Safer Opioid Alternatives for Dental Pain

dental pain

The goal of the analysis, which was published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, was to summarize data from five in-depth studies that looked at the efficacy of painkillers when used in a dental environment. According to the analysis, ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used alone or with acetaminophen are superior to opioids for treating dental pain.

The researchers learned that a combination of 400 mg of ibuprofen and 1,000 mg of acetaminophen is more effective than any opioid or opioid-containing medication used to treat dental pain. They also found that opioids and drugs containing opioids produced more adverse side effects in children and adults than the ibuprofen / acetaminophen combination — such as nausea, vomiting, and respiratory depression. Study author Anita Aminoshariae says that using nonsteroidal medications with or without acetaminophen gives dental patients the safest balance between benefits and harms while lowering the risk for post-op complication rates.

What If Your Dentist Prescribes Opioids?

When taken short-term as prescribed by a dentist, opioids can be safe and effective at reducing pain caused by certain dental procedures. But opioids are highly addictive, and are causing fatal overdoses that are killing Americans at a rate of 115 people per day. An estimated 12% of prescriptions for immediate-release opioids are written by dentists, and roughly 50% of patients who visit hospital emergency rooms for non-traumatic dental pain receive an opioid prescription.

If your dentist gives you an opioid prescription following certain procedures, ask about using ibuprofen and acetaminophen to help you manage pain more safely with a lowered risk for addiction. Inform your dentist immediately if substance use disorders run in your family, or if you have a personal history with addiction.

In the event you continue experiencing high levels of pain from your dental procedure after using ibuprofen and acetaminophen, it’s possible you may benefit from using opioids short-term. But before using opioids, have a serious in-depth conversation with your dentist regarding when and how to use your opioids, and about how long you should be using these drugs to manage pain. If you end up with leftover opioids after recovering from your dental procedure, safely dispose of your pills by dropping them off at a drug take-back location or flushing them down the toilet.

Where to Find Help for Opioid Abuse

Many communities, cities, and states have recently increased access to opioid addiction treatment. Opioid dependence can be safely and effectively treated using a medical detox, medically supervised detox, or with medication-assisted treatment. Many opioid detox treatments use medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone to help you experience a more comfortable recovery with fewer drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Ready to begin your recovery journey? Call 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) to learn about available treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction.

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