As dental professionals, most of what we do is about relieving and preventing pain. However, sometimes post-procedure pain is an unfortunate but unavoidable step on the road to a healthy and functional smile. If you end up needing a dental procedure, we will give you specific recommendations for how to relieve any pain as part of your post-treatment instructions. In the meantime, here is an overview of pain relievers in relation to your dental health care.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are medications that don’t require a prescription from a doctor to buy. One category of these is called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDs. These medications relieve pain and reduce inflammation at the same time, which can help improve the condition that is causing the pain. Examples include ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) or aspirin. Another common over-the-counter pain reliever is acetaminophen, known by the brand name Tylenol. Each of these pain relievers differs slightly, so your dentist will likely recommend the type that is best for your situation. You can buy these medications right off the shelf at drugstores and many grocery and convenience stores.
As you might expect, pain relievers that require a prescription from a doctor are stronger and may be used to treat more intense post-operative pain. Some prescription pain relievers are just stronger doses of OTC medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Other prescription pain relievers are opioids, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone (a.k.a. OxyContin). Opioids come with a risk of addiction because they are narcotics, so they must be taken according to instructions and with great care. If you have a history of substance abuse, you should talk to your dental surgeon or doctor about whether you should take opioids for your dental pain.
If you’ve been under the care of an oral surgeon for wisdom teeth removal, tooth extractions, or another procedure, you know that sometimes the oral surgeon will prescribe post-operative pain management medications beforehand. Most of the time, these prescription pain relievers are offered “just in case”. Depending on the procedure, some patients will not experience a level of pain that cannot be alleviated with over-the-counter medications. For your comfort, the oral surgeon will provide prescription painkillers in the event that over-the-counter medications are not effective.
Simpler procedures may also have residual pain that can be handled with over-the-counter pain relievers. For example, pain from swelling after treatments that involve the manipulation of gum tissue can usually be handled by over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen.
If you have concerns about dental pain or which medications are right for you, be sure to discuss this with the dentist. We are happy to provide post-procedure pain management recommendations, no matter which treatment we’ve done on your smile.