With opioid misuse and abuse on the rise across the nation, it’s not surprising that physicians and dentists are occupying prime seats at the table in the quest to find a viable solution for the best way to treat patients with chronic pain.

Pain is certainly one of the oldest challenges healthcare providers face. Chronic pain is common, with approximately 11 percent of the U.S. population reporting they struggle with chronic pain on a daily basis.

Opioids have been commonly used in the treatment of pain for centuries, despite limited evidence and knowledge about their long-term benefits. But there is a growing body of clear evidence regarding their risks. Namely, regular opioid use, even including use in an appropriate therapeutic context, is associated with both tolerance and dependence.

A recent study conducted at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland asserts that ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) alone or in combination with acetaminophen are actually better at easing dental pain than opioids.

These findings are supported by new research conducted with the School of Dental Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. The study, which examined relief of acute pain in dentistry, was recently featured on the cover of The Journal of the American Dental Association. The study evaluated the safety and efficacy of dozens of pain-relief options.

The study also found that opioids or drug combinations that included opioids accounted for the most negative side effects, including drowsiness, respiratory depression, nausea/vomiting and constipation, in both children and adults.

"What we know is that prescribing narcotics should be a last resort," said Anita Aminoshariae, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor in the dental school's Department of Endodontics.


Because each day, more than 115 Americans die as a result of an opioid overdose. This is according to the National Institutes of Health.

"No patient should go home in pain," Aminoshariae said. "That means that opioids are sometimes the best option, but certainly should not be the first option."

Aminoshariae cited the national opioid epidemic as one of many reasons why all healthcare providers should take note of the findings.