Clinical Oral Investigations

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 1297–1302 | Cite as

Analgesia (mis)usage on a dental emergency service: a patient survey

  • Geert Hommez
  • B. Ongena
  • R. G. E. C. Cauwels
  • P. De Paepe
  • V. Christiaens
  • W. Jacquet
Original Article



Analgesics are one of the most frequently used medicines. Self-medication and misuse have been described in the literature. The purpose of this study was to document analgesic (mis)use in a population seeking emergency dental treatment.

Material and methods

Patients consulting a dental emergency service were randomly asked to complete a questionnaire on analgesic use, knowledge and information on the analgesics and on their pain history. A photobook was used as an aid to identify products used. Descriptive statistics were combined with chi-square and Mann-Whitney U testing.


Ninety-eight patients were included. Acetaminophen (69.4%) and ibuprofen (65.3%) were the most frequently used products. Nearly half of the subjects (43.9%) combined at least two analgesics. Although 42.9% of subjects were aware of the maximum daily dose, 62.2% of the subjects exceeded this limit, specifically 76.6% of subjects using ibuprofen and 32.4% of subjects using acetaminophen overdosing. Females overdosed significantly more than males. Ingestion on medical advice did not affect the overdose rates significantly. No significant relation was found between the absence of knowledge on the maximum daily dose and actual overdosing. No higher pain reduction was found in patients overdosing analgesics. The average number of days patients experienced pain before consulting the emergency unit was 12. A significant relation was found between the lag time and overdosing.


A large portion of the patients overdosed analgesics. Even prior medical advice did not reduce significantly overdose rates.

Clinical relevance

Dentists treating emergency cases clearly need to be aware of the high risk and high rates of overdosing analgesics in their patients.


Dental Emergency Analgesics Overdose Misuse Pain 



A special thanks to Valerie Staelraeve for supporting this research at the emergency department.

Funding information

The work was not funded. All work was performed by University staff and no additional costs occurred.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the Ethical Committee of the Ghent University Hospital (B670201420818).

Informed consent

Signed informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

784_2017_2228_MOESM1_ESM.sav (72 kb)
ESM 1 (SAV 72 kb)
784_2017_2228_MOESM2_ESM.sps (6 kb)
ESM 2 (SPS 6 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Cluster Periodontology, Oral Implantology, Removable and Implant Prosthodontics, Dental School University Hospital, Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesUniversity of GhentGhentBelgium
  2. 2.PaeCoMeDis Research Group, Dep. Paediatric Dentistry, Dental School University Hospital, Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesUniversity of GhentGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Emergency MedicineGhent University HospitalGhentBelgium
  4. 4.Oral Health Research Group ORHE, Faculty of Medicine and PharmacyVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  5. 5.Department of Educational Sciences EDWE-LOCI, Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesVUB Vrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

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