Headaches, Opioids and the Dentist

Some headaches may be caused by a dental problem and may be treated more effectively by a dentist rather than a general practitioner.

Dr. Grant Hinze said if a headache causes surface pain on the side or back of the head, or the patient notices clicking in the jaw joints, the headache may be stemming from a dental issue.

In some cases, the pain may appear to radiate from the temple region, but the true origin of the pain may stem from the jaw as the result of an improper bite. These problems require treatment by a dentist to relieve the ongoing headache pain.

This was one of the topics at a recent Nebraska Academy of General Dentistry seminar that Dr. Hinze attended in late October.

Another topic related to pain is the use of opioid drugs in dentistry.

Dr. Hinze said it takes just five days to become addicted to strong pain medications such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) or oxycodone (OxyContin or Percocet), morphine and codeine. He tries to avoid prescribing these drugs as more evidence suggests they are causing addiction problems around the country.

Patients who would happen to need a strong pain medication prescription should talk with Dr. Hinze regarding responsibilities for preventing misuse, abuse, storage and disposal of unused prescription drugs. And, be sure to mention if you or anyone in your family has struggled with an addiction in the past.

Over-the-counter remedies, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can be just as effective in relieving pain after dental procedures.