Oral pain is the commonest reason why parents and carers visit a pharmacy for analgesia for children, new research shows, leading the lead researcher to call for “better training for community pharmacy staff”.

Over 10 weeks, staff at 951 pharmacies across London surveyed parents, carers and adolescents purchasing OTC pain analgesics or collecting prescriptions for pain medicines for 6,915 patients aged 0 to 19 years.

Sixty-five per cent wanted pain relief for oral pain, usually toothache (41 per cent). Twenty per cent had pain from an erupting tooth and 15 per cent had a painful mouth ulcer.

Saturdays and Sundays were the commonest days on which parents visited pharmacies about children’s oral pain. Only 30 per cent of the children had seen a dentist before visiting the pharmacy, highlighting a concerning underuse of dental services, says lead researcher Vanessa Muirhead from Queen Mary’s Institute of Dentistry.

Furthermore, 28 per cent of children experiencing oral pain had seen between one and four health professionals outside dentistry, most commonly GPs. Assuming the findings apply across England, the NHS spends around £2.3 million annually when children with oral pain inappropriately use multiple health services, the authors say.

“We need to develop systems and referral processes where GPs, community pharmacists and dentists talk to each other to make sure that children with toothache see a dentist as soon as possible for treatment. We also need better training for community pharmacy staff giving parents advice.”

BMJ Open doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2017-020771

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