Prepared by Michael McCullough, Chair, Therapeutics Committee, Australian Dental Association

Dentists often advise patients regarding pain management for dental pain and generally the recommendation for pregnant women to use paracetamol, as the first-line treatment of fever and pain, is reasonable. However, on occasions the dental pain experienced will warrant the short-term use of drugs which include therapeutic doses of codeine. The use of these drugs for short-term treatment (2–3 days) in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not pose any adverse risk.

It is probably prudent for dentists not to prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for pain relief during pregnancy. If their patients are experiencing profound, persistent pain it would be advisable to liaise with the patient's medical practitioner for appropriate management. Importantly, accurate diagnosis and timely dental treatment will dramatically and effectively reduce the pain for these patients. This will diminish the requirement for systemic pain relief.