Do Dentists Prescribe Pain Relievers?

As a doctor of dental medicine or doctor of dental surgery your dentist can prescribe medications as needed for dental care just like a doctor. Learn more about when dentists prescribe pain relievers.

Do Dentists Prescribe Pain Relievers?

As a doctor of dental medicine or doctor of dental surgery, your dentist can prescribe medications as needed for dental care, just like a doctor. This includes antibiotics to fight infections, muscle relaxants for jaw pain, anesthetics and sedatives to help during procedures, and other medications that help us keep you and your mouth healthy, including pain relievers. In the past, it was quite common for dentists to prescribe opioids for dental pain due to a lack of understanding in the general medical community about the long-term negative effects and prevalence of addiction. However, this is changing as we become more aware of the seriousness of the opioid crisis in our country.

Dentists are now taking a more conscious and cautious approach to opioid prescribing. If opioids are needed, we focus on ensuring that they are used responsibly and on a very temporary basis. It's usually OK to take over-the-counter pain relievers before a dental appointment. However, it is important to ask your dentist before taking them.

The oral surgeon will also need to know what is in your system before prescribing any prescriptions. Be sure to tell your dentist what brand of pain medication you plan to take, as well as the dosage of that medication. Not all dentists, especially pediatricians or orthodontists, prescribe narcotics. More widespread use of the database could prevent the prescription of additional opioids to patients who are already taking analgesics for chronic pain or who have prescriptions for a benzodiazepine, such as Ativan or Xanax. The combination of opioids and benzodiazepines markedly increases the risk of overdose. If the injury caused severe pain, the dentist may prescribe a pain control medication that can reduce pain.

If it is swelling, an anti-inflammatory medication may be required. For almost all injuries, an emergency dentist will likely prescribe an antibiotic. Most injuries involve something that can make the mouth susceptible to bacterial infections. The antibiotic will help fight infections while the mouth heals. To alleviate the discomfort that may result from some dental procedures, such as extracting teeth, gums and other dental surgeries, or placing dental implants, dentists may prescribe medications to relieve pain, including opioids.

Bruce Austin, practicing dentist for 30 years and state dental director of the Oregon Health Authority. Only your dentist can give you the best recommendation regarding the benefits, risks and dangers of opioids. These types of medications are generally safe if used for a short period of time, as prescribed by a healthcare professional, to relieve short-term oral pain that may result from injury or some dental procedures. When a patient visits an emergency dentist, they are likely to feel a lot of pain or that something has broken. After a tooth extraction procedure, it is important to follow the aftercare advice provided by the dentist to ensure complete healing and avoid complications. It's important to know that there are over-the-counter non-opioid medications such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, that can be just as effective in controlling most dental pain. Studies suggest that adolescents exposed to opioids, even if only for one or two days, have a 33 percent higher risk of non-medical use of prescription pain relievers at some point in the future.

According to the American Dental Association, these dental emergencies bring nearly 2 million people to the emergency room with dental pain every year. The new findings published in the Journal of the American Dental Association by a team at the University of Michigan build on previous work showing that dentists over-prescribe opioids without increasing pain relief or patient satisfaction. But sometimes you find yourself going to the dentist for reasons other than routine dental cleanings such as dental emergencies. New prescribing guidelines for dentists call for more sensible use of opioid analgesics to reduce risk of patients becoming addicted.

After a patient visits an emergency dentist they will likely be advised to follow up with their general or family dentist. It may not be necessary to refill medications prescribed by an emergency dentist but it is best to consult with the general dentist about any concerns related to the need for medication.