Dental patients who take opioid painkillers after a tooth extraction report higher levels of pain compared with those who take non-opioid pain medication, a new study finds.

The study suggests that it may be possible to significantly reduce the use of opioids in dentistry, HealthDay reports.

Researchers at the University of Michigan asked 329 patients to rate their pain and satisfaction within six months of having a tooth extracted. The study found a little over half of those who had surgical extraction and 39% of those who had a routine extraction were prescribed opioids.

“The real-world data from this study reinforces the previously published randomized-controlled trials showing opioids are no better than acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for pain after dental extraction,” study co-author Dr. Chad Brummett said in a news release.

The study found that about half of the prescribed opioids remained unused after tooth extractions. This could put patients or their loved ones at risk of future misuse of opioids if leftover pills are not disposed of properly, the researchers noted.