Dentists and oral surgeons most often prescribe opioids to manage dental pain that lasts for a short time, called “acute pain.” The short-term pain from dental surgery such as wisdom tooth extraction is an example of acute pain. Dentists rarely prescribe opioids for long-term pain, called “chronic pain.”
When taken for a short time and used as prescribed, opioid pain medications are relatively safe and can reduce pain. However, when used incorrectly, they can increase the risk of opioid misuse, addiction, and overdose deaths.
In 2016, the American Dental Association issued recommendations for dentists about prescribing opioids. The recommendations say dentists should consider a type of pain medication called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDS (like ibuprofen, for example), as the first option for acute pain.