Opioids and Dental Pain

Opioids are a type of medication used to relieve pain. They require a prescription from your dentist or doctor, and include drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and codeine. Opioids also include illegal drugs such as heroin.

To ease discomfort that can result from some dental procedures, such as tooth extraction, gum and other dental surgery, or placement of dental implants, dentists may prescribe medications for pain relief, including opioids. Commonly prescribed opioid medications for relief of dental pain include hydrocodone (Vicodin®), oxycodone (Percocet® or OxyContin®), and acetaminophen with codeine (Tylenol® No. 3 and Tylenol® No. 4).

These types of medications are generally safe if they are used for a short period of time—as prescribed by a health professional—to relieve short-term oral pain that may result from injuries or some dental procedures. However, using these types of medications for a longer period of time and at a higher dose than prescribed puts you at risk for becoming dependent on opioid medications. And, when misused, opioids can lead to addiction, overdose, or death.

It is important to know there are over-the-counter, non-opioid medications—acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®)—that can be just as effective for managing most dental pain.