Better Than Opioids

Research finds non-narcotics more effective for dental pain

Nearly 20 years ago, while caring for service members in the U.S. Navy, Anita Aminoshariae, DDS (DEN '99), learned from mentors that non-narcotic pain relievers worked at least as well as opioids after dental procedures. As a result, opioids were never her first-choice drug for patients.

Turns out, Aminoshariae, now an associate professor at Case Western Reserve's School of Dental Medicine, followed the right protocol.

Earlier this year, she was part of a national team of researchers who found that opioids are not among the most effective—or longest lasting—options available for relief from acute dental pain. "Prescribing narcotics should be a last resort," she said.

With more than 115 people dying in the United States every day from an opioid overdose, according to the National Institutes of Health, the findings have resonated.

The research study landed on the cover of The Journal of the American Dental Association, and national and international coverage followed, with reports in media outlets ranging from The New York Times to The Irish News, based in Belfast, Ireland.

The team's research—a systematic review of results from more than 460 published studies—found that, for adults, a combination of 400 milligrams of ibuprofen and 1,000 milligrams of acetaminophen was more effective than any opioid-containing medications studied.

While the conclusion wasn't new, the study's aim is to provide dentists with solid and extensive evidence to help with clinical decision-making.

Aminoshariae, who had worked as a Navy contractor, said that non-narcotic drugs such as ibuprofen treat the inflammation causing the pain rather than mask the symptoms.

—Colin McEwen