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Dentists say it is time to rethink pain management

Dentists say it is time to rethink pain management
Dentists say it is time to rethink pain management 02:30

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Leading dentists say it is time to rethink pain management. 

Like most areas in life, things are changing, and we need to adjust to them. That's why future dentists being trained at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine are learning new ways to prescribe medication after surgery. 

Inside Salk Hall, future dentists are learning how to manage your tooth pain. Professor Emeritus Dr. Paul Moore teaches pharmacology and says Pitt's involved in a major shift when it comes to pain management.

"When I trained, which was many years ago and graduated in '73, we would prescribe opioids, particularly for taking out wisdom teeth, taking out those third molars, and that probably represents 4 million kids a year have their wisdom teeth taken out," Moore said. 

And for many, that's the first time they experience the feeling of an opioid. And that can lead to problems that destroy lives and families.

"Those stories about the 16-year-old or the 18-year-old who has his wisdom teeth taken out and his 13-year-old brother decides to get into the pills and play with them and have overdose reactions. Those stories exist," Moore said.

New guidelines from the American Dental Association hope to change that. It now says acetaminophen and NSAIDs should be the first line of treatment for young dental patients.

"What we found is in dentistry, where most of the pain is related to inflammation and infection, that Ibuprofen and the other nonsteroidal are extraordinarily effective, certainly more effective than what we were prescribing," Moore said.

And those guidelines also do away with just-in-case prescriptions. That's when doctors write a prescription for you to keep on hand. 

"I think we're ranked eighth, so we prescribe less than 6 percent of the opioids that are prescribed in the United States," Moore said. "But nevertheless, we prescribe to adolescents, and I think that's a very special population."

Moore said he's happy people are beginning to realize that for 95 percent of cases, these over-the-counter medications do the trick.

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