A Better Bet For Dental Pain

Medically Reviewed

Do you rely on opioid painkillers like Vicodin or Percocet to relieve pain after having a tooth pulled? That’s not a smart move, according to researchers who analyzed past data to find out which painkillers worked best after dental surgery.

They compared the effectiveness of the combination of an opioid and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) with an ibuprofen and acetaminophen (Tylenol) combination to relieve pain after a molar extraction. The studies showed that patients receiving the ibuprofen/acetaminophen combination had less pain than the opioid combination. The doses of each depended on whether postsurgical pain was mild, moderate, or severe and ranged from 200 mg to 500 mg of ibuprofen and 500 mg to 650 mg of acetaminophen.

Experts attribute the superior effectiveness of the non-opioid combination to the one-two punch that each drug provides—acetaminophen is good at lessening pain, and ibuprofen reduces inflammation while reducing pain through a different mechanism than acetaminophen. Plus, patients who take ibuprofen and acetaminophen aren’t at risk for opioids’ adverse effects, such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and drug addiction.

—Journal of the American Dental Association, vol. 144, p. 898