BACKGROUND: Understanding how adolescent patients make decisions about pain management after complex dental procedures could help reduce the use of opioid medications and the potential for future opioid misuse in this population. This qualitative study explores how adolescents manage pain, including how decision making with parents and providers affect their experience with opioid and non-opioid analgesics after third molar dental extractions. METHODS: We used a qualitative approach for the analysis of 30 telephone-based semi-structured interviews completed by 15 dyads between May and August 2019, which included 15 adolescents (15-17 years) who underwent a dental extraction, and a parent or guardian for each adolescent. The total sample included 30 participants. Interviews were conducted separately for patients and parents. De-identified interview transcripts were analyzed using qualitative analysis software using a directed content analysis approach. RESULTS: A total of 15 patient/parent dyads were interviewed. Key themes associated with pain management included sources of information, pain management behaviors engaged in by the adolescents and their caregivers, and the use of medication. In addition to conversations with their dental provider, most patients and their parents discussed pain management plans that included non-medication options, over-the-counter medications, and opioid medications to be taken as needed, which guided their post-extraction behaviors. All participants reported that the adolescent received an opioid prescription for post-extraction pain management, to be taken on an "as needed" basis, but most only took it the day of the extraction and up to 2 days following, usually based on the patient's reported pain levels and perceptions of over-the-counter medication adequacy. Participants said they did not receive guidance from their provider concerning disposal of unused opioid medications. CONCLUSIONS: Involving adolescents in the pain management decision making process and allowing them to carry out the plan with some caregiver support was acceptable and well executed following third molar extractions. Providers may have an opportunity to reduce the number of opioids prescribed, since respondents reported little to no use of opioids that they were prescribed. Providers should educate patients and their parents about safe disposal of opioids to mitigate the potential for diversion.