Patients Prefer Non-Opioid Painkillers After Oral Surgery

Dentistry Today


More than 7 in 10 oral surgery patients or their parents said they would opt for a non-opioid medication to treat postsurgical pain from third molar extraction, according to a national survey conducted by Pacira Pharmaceuticals. About 80% said they would want the option even if the medication cost more. Yet despite the desire for an alternative, 70% said an opioid was prescribed after the extraction anyway. 

“It’s evident that opioids continue to be the cornerstone of pain management following third molar extraction, despite their association with unwanted side effects and the risk for abuse or addiction,” said study investigator Pedro Franco, DDS.

“This research shows us that an overwhelming majority of patients, many of whom are likely exposed to opioids for the first time following an oral surgery procedure, would prefer a non-opioid option. I am hopeful that these findings will encourage clinicians and patients alike to be more proactive in their pain management discussions, especially as it relates to the availability of opioid alternatives,” said Franco.

The researchers say that their work highlights an opportunity to bridge the gap in surgeon-patient communication. At least 90% of patients and parents indicated wanting the opportunity to discuss a personal pain management plan with their surgeon in advance of their procedure, and up to 71% reported feeling concerned about the potential for opioid-related adverse effects. However, only about 40% discussed their concerns with their surgeon. 

Plus, nearly 90% of patients who took opioids experienced adverse side effects, ranging from nausea and vomiting to confusion or feeling “spaced out,” that impaired their daily activities. Respondents indicated being unable to drive, go to school or work, exercise, or participate in sports for several days.

“These data clearly show us both the ubiquitous nature of opioid use and the alarming rate of patient exposure to their adverse effects,” said Dave Stack, CEO and chair of Pacira. “The ability to use non-opioid medications to treat postsurgical pain and reduce or avoid opioid requirements, especially in this particularly vulnerable patient population, is integral to mitigating the unintended consequences associated with their use.”

Conducted between June 23 and July 8, 2016, the anonymous, national, online survey polled 1,000 adults age 18 years or older who had third molar extractions in the previous year; 251 parents of patients under the age of 18 years who had underwent such surgery; and 251 parents of patients expecting to have surgery within the next year. Its results will be presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

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