Should I Take Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen After Tooth Extraction?

Should I Take Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen After Tooth Extraction?

You don’t need a prescription to reduce pain after tooth extraction. Everything you need can be found in your home or local drugstore. 

Ouch! You just had a tooth pulled. Although you understand the tooth needed to be extracted because of severe decay or breakage, you’re in pain right now and want it to stop.

Luckily, you don’t have to look far for pain relief. The answer is already in your medicine cabinet or local drugstore: You can take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or a combination of both to relieve discomfort. Both medications can soothe the pain and swelling after tooth extraction. Let’s review why your mouth hurts after getting a tooth pulled and how each medicine can help reduce the pain.

Why a tooth extraction hurts so much

There’s a reason getting a tooth pulled hurts so much. It’s a traumatic experience for your tooth and gums! During the process of extracting the tooth, the surrounding tissue gets damaged. In response, your body releases nociceptors that activate the pain receptors in your brain. 

The tissue becomes inflamed for two reasons. First, the extraction triggers your immune system to send out an enzyme known as cyclooxygenase-2. That enzyme then produces a hormone called prostaglandin, which rushes blood to the area. This leads to a buildup of fluids in the tissue. As a result, you experience redness, swelling, and pain.

The inflammation is also part of the healing process, although it causes some pain initially. As blood rushes to the site, so do protein-rich fluids. While those fluids help heal the tissue by getting rid of bacteria and dead molecules, the fluids also cause swelling and painful irritation of the nerve endings at the extraction site.

The after-extraction pain usually subsides after two or three days, but the good news is you don’t have to live with the pain! Taking acetaminophen and ibuprofen will make those days more comfortable.

How ibuprofen and acetaminophen work to stop the pain

You don’t have to choose one or the other. In fact, your best option may be to combine both ibuprofen and acetaminophen for maximum pain relief.

Ibuprofen is an FDA-approved nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) sold under the names Advil, Motrin, and Nurofen. Over-the-counter dosages range between 200 to 400 milligrams, while prescription-strength tops out at 800 milligrams. As an anti-inflammatory, ibuprofen reduces inflammation at the extraction site.

Meanwhile, acetaminophen (or Tylenol) blocks the pain signals to the brain and central nervous system. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can work together to reduce pain and inflammation. 

According to one study out of the School of Dental Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, ibuprofen and acetaminophen eased dental pain when taken together. Researchers found that taking 400 milligrams of ibuprofen and 1,000 milligrams of acetaminophen was more successful in treating pain than opioids.

Always consult your dentist about which medications to take after a tooth extraction. Ibuprofen, for example, can cause side effects, such as an allergic reaction or stomach upsets. 

Are you worried about tooth extraction? Don’t be!

Schedule an appointment at Espire’s Oklahoma City location today! Our highly trained dentists will make a tooth extraction as painless as possible and recommend after-care medications. Don’t live near our Oklahoma City office? Find one of our other locations near you.

Oklahoma City, OK
12448 St Andrews Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73120