A leap forward in dental pain management without opioids

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The Opioid Crisis and Dental Pain

The opioid epidemic, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been a major concern, with prescription opioid-involved deaths rising significantly.

In dental care, opioids have traditionally been a go-to for managing acute pain, especially after procedures like tooth extractions. However, the high risk of addiction and overdose with opioids has led researchers to seek safer alternatives.

The University of Rochester’s Groundbreaking Study

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health (EIOH) conducted a study, now published in JAMA Network Open, that offers hope for a non-opioid solution.

This study compared two groups of patients from different years (2012 and 2021-2022), who underwent dental extractions at the Institute’s clinic. The aim was to explore effective pain management while minimizing or eliminating the use of opioids.

Changing Approaches to Pain Management

In 2012, patients with mild pain received standard treatments like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, while those with more severe pain were given higher doses or opioid combinations. Fast forward to 2021-2022, and the approach shifted dramatically.

The new protocol eliminated opioids altogether, even for moderate to severe pain, replacing them with higher doses of non-opioid medications or a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

For patients who couldn’t take these due to health reasons, gabapentin combinations were used as an alternative in 2022, instead of opioids as in 2012.

Promising Results

The study’s findings were encouraging, showing that patients who received non-opioid treatments, including the gabapentin combination, were less likely to return for additional pain treatment.

This suggests that non-opioid alternatives can be just as effective for managing dental pain.

Despite the American Dental Association’s recommendation for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs over opioids, dentists often resort to opioids, partly due to the lack of effective alternatives.

This study challenges this norm and aligns with efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions in dentistry.

Looking Ahead

While these results are promising, the authors, including Dr. Yanfang Ren and Dr. Eli Eliav, acknowledge the need for further studies, preferably randomized controlled trials, to confirm the safety and effectiveness of these non-opioid treatments.

Their work represents a significant step in redefining pain management in dentistry, aiming to offer safe and effective care for patients experiencing dental pain.

If you care about pain, please read studies about how to manage your back pain, and exercise harder if you want to ward off pain due to ageing.

For more information about pain, please see recent studies about how to live pain-free with arthritis, and results showing common native American plant may help reduce diarrhea and pain.

The research findings can be found in JAMA Network Open.

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