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4 Evidence-based Reasons To Improve Opioid Prescribing Practices After Dental Surgery


In outpatient dental surgery, 54% of opioids go unused 1 

Reducing opioid prescribing improves the safety for patients, families, and communities 

  • From 2010 to 2016, the proportion of initial opioid prescriptions in dental care increased by 68% 2  
  • In young adults, dentists are the leading prescribers of opioids 3  
  • Overdose risk among family members increased when opioid prescriptions were dispensed to patients for a dental surgery 4


No Correlation between patient satisfaction scores and amount of opioid prescribed 5  

Prescribing more opioids does not improve patient satisfaction

  • Patients who used opioids after tooth extraction reported significantly higher levels of pain compared to those who did not use opioids, but no difference in satisfaction was observed 5
  • Patients who were prescribed fewer opioids reported using fewer opioids with no change in pain scores 6


Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are more effective than opioids in managing pain 7,8 

Using OTC medications to manage pain can decrease the need for opioids after dental surgery

  • A combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen is more effective than opioids for dental pain control and carries less risk for adverse events 7,8  
  • The ADA recommends NSAIDs as a first line therapy 8  


6.9% of adolescents & young adults who receive opioids after dental surgery developed new persistent opioid use 9

New persistent opioid use is one of the most common surgical complications

  • In adolescents and young adults who received dental opioids, 5.8% had an opioid misuse or overdose related encounter 9
  • Filling an opioid prescription after wisdom tooth removal resulted in more than three times the risk of developing new persistent opioid use 10
  • Most adolescents believe that prescription opioids are safer than other substances of misuse 11


Additional Resources

OPEN Prescribing Recommendations:
Healthcare Professional Resources:


  1. Maughan B. Drug and alcohol dependence, Elsevier. 2016; 168:328-34.
  2. Larach D. Ann Surg. 2020;271(2):290-295.
  3. Chua, K-P. AAP, 2021;148(3), e2021051539.
  4. Chua, K-P. AJPM 2021;61(2), 165–173.
  5. Nalliah R. JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(3):e200901.
  6. Howard R. JAMA Surg. 2018;153(3):285-287.
  7. Moore P. JADA. 2018;149(4):256-65.
  8. American Dental Association. (2022.) Oral Analgesics for Acute Dental Pain.
  9. Schroeder A. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2019;179(2):145-52.
  10. Harbaugh C. JAMA Network. 2018;320(5):504-6.
  11. Johnston L. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan; 2016

Cite this work:
OPEN: Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (2022). 4 Evidence-Based Reasons to Improve Opioid Prescribing Practices After Dental Surgery. Retrieved from