Patients prescribed opioids after tooth extraction report worse pain

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opioids tooth pain

The use of opioids to soothe the pain of a pulled tooth could be drastically reduced or eliminated altogether from dentistry, US researchers have found. 

In a study by University of Michigan researchers—and published in JAMA Network Open—more than 325 dental patients who had teeth pulled were asked to rate their pain and satisfaction within six months of extraction. Roughly half of the study’s patients who had surgical extraction and 39 per cent who had routine extraction were prescribed opioids.

The researchers compared the pain and satisfaction of those who used opioids to those who didn’t.

“I feel like the most important finding is that patient satisfaction with pain management was no different between the opioid group and non-opioid group, and it didn’t make a difference whether it was surgical or routine extraction,” study co-author Professor Romesh Nalliah said.

Surprisingly, patients in the opioid group actually reported worse pain than the non-opioid group for both types of extractions, Nalliah added.

The researchers also found that roughly half of the opioids prescribed remained unused in both surgical and nonsurgical extractions. This could put patients or their loved ones at risk of future misuse of opioids if leftover pills are not disposed of properly.

The results have big implications for both patients and dentists, and suggest prescribing practices need an overhaul, the researchers said.

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