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Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids Could Become the Standard for Treating Dental Pain

A new Rutgers University study reveals the potential potency of using hemp derivatives to soothe the intense pain sometimes accompanying specific dental procedures.



There is pain, and then there is pain associated with a trip to the dentist. Cartoons, sketch shows, and commercials have all documented, lamented, and laughed at the excruciating agony associated with dental procedures like root canals, removal of wisdom teeth, and receiving fillings for cavities. 


The typical prescription for treating such torturous pain is usually some form of opioid painkiller. With the overdose crisis currently ravaging the nation, fueled predominantly by the devastating effects of the Oxycontin catastrophe that took place during the early part of this century, many medical professionals and patients are desperately seeking healthier and safer forms of pain relief that do not involve the use of opioids.


A new study sponsored by Rutgers University and recently published in the Journal of Dental Research may have identified a better and less harmful alternative to the potent and highly addictive opioid class of painkillers. According to multiple media outlets, researchers at the New Jersey-based university conducted a clinical trial involving 61 participants with severe dental pain.


Each patient was randomly given either CBD or a placebo. The CBD drug was administered in the form of Epidiolex, an FDA-approved CBD solution primarily used to treat epileptic seizures. Researchers then monitored patient pain levels with a visual analog scale for three hours.


The results were quite compelling. Those patients given CBD reported a substantial decrease in pain over those taking the placebo. Roughly 85% of CBD users experienced at least a 50% reduction in pain, with the median reduction level hovering around 70%.


They also found that participants taking the Epidiolex drug had a stronger bite force over placebo patients. This unexpected result indicates that CBD may also improve tooth function, making it particularly valuable in cases where intense pain reduces the patient’s ability to chew properly.


As mentioned above, the primary motivation behind the study was to help researchers identify better and healthier alternatives to using opioid painkillers to treat acute dental pain. The study's lead author is Vanessa Chrepa, an associate professor at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine. In an interview regarding the study results, she explained her team’s impetus for conducting the survey. 


“The first line of defense for dental pain has always been anti-inflammatory medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). But, many patients can’t take such medications or can’t get sufficient relief from them. So, dentists have traditionally been among the largest prescribers of opioid medications, either alone or in combination with these other medications. The rise in opioid-related addiction and death has everyone looking for better alternatives. Things that can alleviate serious pain without hurting so many patients,” Chrepa said.


"The first line of defense for dental pain has always been anti-inflammatory medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). But, many patients can’t take such medications or can’t get sufficient relief from them. So, dentists have traditionally been among the largest prescribers of opioid medications, either alone or in combination with these other medications. The rise in opioid-related addiction and death has everyone looking for better alternatives. Things that can alleviate serious pain without hurting so many patients.”

- Dr. Vanessa Chrepa, Lead Author of the Study


Since medicinal and recreational cannabis became legal in states like New Jersey, its various derivatives and cannabinoids have been thoroughly explored as potential alternatives to opioids in the past. However, the Rutgers University research team set out to identify a component of the plant to treat pain that is neither psychoactive nor addictive. 


That’s when they turned to a close “cousin” of marijuana, the hemp plant. Hemp and cannabis are two parts of the same cannabis sativa plant, with the only distinction between the two being the level of delta-9 THC concentrations contained within each plant. 


According to the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the cultivation, processing, manufacturing, selling, and consumption of hemp and all of its downstream derivative products and uses, hemp is any part of the cannabis sativa plant containing less than 0.3% delta-9 THC. Those parts of the plant with more than that level are considered to be cannabis.


CBD, or Cannabidiol, is the main derivative product produced from hemp and generated close to $6.2 billion in revenue in 2023. Viewed as a “miracle drug” by many, CBD is used to treat ailments ranging from pain relief, anxiety, dystonia, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, and more. So, it did not come as a significant shock to researchers that CBD (via Epidiolex) could provide such powerful pain relief to patients.


Dr Chepra continues: “We studied cannabidiol or CBD because previous research from other specialties suggested that it might relieve dental pain without any psychoactive effects, which is really what everyone wants to find.”


"We studied cannabidiol or CBD because previous research from other specialties suggested that it might relieve dental pain without any psychoactive effects, which is really what everyone wants to find.”

- Dr. Vanessa Chrepa, Lead Author of the Study


With CBD and the entire hemp industry under attack over the past few years due to the perceived harmful effects associated with Intoxicating Hemp Derivatives (IHDs) like delta-8 and delta-10 THC, the Rutgers University study comes as welcome news to hemp industry advocates and stakeholders. 


By providing concrete scientific evidence as to the effectiveness of CBD and other hemp-derived cannabinoids to safely treat pain without the detrimental side effects associated with the psychoactive compounds most commonly found in cannabis, the scientists at Rutgers have given the industry more ammunition in its battle against corporate cannabis interests and partisan politicians seeking to destroy all things hemp-related. Put this result in the definite win column for hemp and its passionate fans and supporters.

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