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Aust Dent J. 2005 Dec;50(4 Suppl 2):S14-22.

Drugs for pain management in dentistry.

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Department of Endodontics, The University of Texas Health Science Centre, San Antonio, Texas, USA.


Pain is one of the most common reasons patients seek dental treatment. It may be due to many different diseases/conditions or it may occur after treatment. Dentists must be able to diagnose the source of pain and have strategies for its management. The '3-D's' principle--diagnosis, dental treatment and drugs--should be used to manage pain. The first, and most important, step is to diagnose the condition causing the pain and identify what caused that condition. Appropriate dental treatment should then be undertaken to remove the cause of the condition as this usually provides rapid resolution of the symptoms. Drugs should only be used as an adjunct to the dental treatment. Most painful problems that require analgesics will be due to inflammation. Pain management drugs include non-narcotic analgesics (e.g., non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, paracetamol, etc) or opioids (i.e., narcotics). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) provide excellent pain relief due to their anti-inflammatory and analgesic action. The most common NSAIDs are aspirin and ibuprofen. Paracetamol gives very effective analgesia but has little anti-inflammatory action. The opioids are powerful analgesics but have significant side effects and therefore they should be reserved for severe pain only. The most commonly-used opioid is codeine, usually in combination with paracetamol. Corticosteroids can also be used for managing inflammation but their use in dentistry is limited to a few very specific situations.

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