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Prescription Pain Medicine

When you visit a dentist, you are usually there to get help preventing or relieving pain.  Sometimes, there is some lingering discomfort after the visit.  There are several options to help you manage your soreness until you are feeling 100% again.  You may be surprised to discover it doesn’t always involve a prescription pain medication!

Over the Counter Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers do not require a prescription to purchase them. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) relieve pain and reduce swelling at the same time.  Examples include ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) or aspirin. This is especially effective because it addresses the underlying problem that is causing the pain. Another common over-the-counter pain reliever is acetaminophen (Tylenol). This drug works by reducing your perception of pain. According to research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, these two classes of drugs can work together to relieve moderate to severe pain, sometimes even better than prescription pain medications. There are also other at home methods to reduce pain until you can be seen by a dentist to address the cause of the pain.

Prescription Pain Medications

Sometimes prescription medication is given to treat more intense pain. Some of these prescriptions are just stronger versions of over-the-counter NSAIDS. Others, like opioids, have received a lot of attention in the headlines recently.  You should take them according to instructions and with great care because of the risk of addiction.  In 2015, the Center for Disease Control reported that there were 18,000 deaths due to prescription opioid overdose.

There are other side effects like nausea, constipation, drowsiness, and a fuzzy-headed feeling that accompany prescription pain medications. Elliot Hersh, D.M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery and pharmacology at Penn Dental Medicine, stated, ““It’s a myth among dentists and patients alike that opioid pain relievers are strong and OTC products are weak.” OTC pain relievers produce far fewer side effects than narcotic pain relievers with often similar relief. Reference the handy chart by Consumer Reports at the end of this post for actionable tips.

Addressing the Cause

Most of the time, prescriptions are given just in case there is a problem, with a limited supply, and require a visit to the dentist.  If you have a prescription for these pills and end up with leftovers, don’t hang on to them! Taking these drugs without the supervision of a doctor is how addiction can start!  Many pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics will take leftover and expired medication. If you have a question of what medications are best for you, we are always happy to answer your questions.

As always, the best way to get rid of the pain is to treat it at its source.  At Emergency Dental, we are open evenings and weekends to make it convenient for you to get the relief you need.  We also have convenient payment plans to help pay for treatment.  Call us today!

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A Custom Plan for Relieving Pain

Mild An over-the-counter NSAID such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and generic) or naproxen (Aleve and generic).
Mild-to-Moderate A prescription-strength NSAID or a higher dose of an OTC product (as advised by your dentist). Never exceed the dose of a pain reliever recommended on the product label without your provider’s OK.
Moderate-to-Severe Both an NSAID and acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic).
Severe An NSAID and a prescription opioid for the first 24 to 48 hours. Then stepping back to just an NSAID, or an NSAID combined with acetaminophen. Never combine prescription opioids that contain acetaminophen, such as Percocet, Tylenol #3, and Vicodin, with an OTC product that contains acetaminophen, including pain relievers such as Tylenol as well as many cough and cold drugs. Doubling up on acetaminophen can damage the liver and can be fatal.
Moore, P. and Hersh, E., “Combining Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen for Acute Pain Management After Third Molar Extraction,” Journal of the American Dental Association, Aug. 2013.

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