Healthcare professionals enjoy when their patients want to understand more, and dentists are no exception! When dental patients take the time to inform and learn from their dentist, they build a relationship that’s beneficial to their understanding of the procedures. The doctor is able to understand the needs of the patient better, too. Communicating openly with an oral healthcare provider is crucial to the patient’s understanding of the risks and proper post-appointment or postoperative care.
Removal of third molars, also known as “wisdom teeth,” is one of the most common oral surgeries in the United States, representing 95% of all extractions among insured 16 to 21 year olds. Traditionally, Vicodin and hydrocodone, common opioid-based pain relievers, are most frequently prescribed by U.S. oral surgeons after the extraction.
Prescribers who often recommend opioid combinations such as Vicodin or Tylenol with Codeine do so because “these combination formulations were thought to be the most effective oral analgesics for managing acute postoperative pain” (Moore). This opioid-based prescription method was established in the 1970s, nearly 10 years before the effectiveness of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were even known.
Many have heard about or experienced first-hand wisdom teeth removal, and may have been prescribed Vicodin or hydrocodone for pain relief after the procedure. But, what isn’t as well known is the recent publication of clinical studies which conclude that acetaminophen and ibuprofen, when used in combination, are more effective for pain relief after oral surgery than opiate-based pain medications. The School of Dental Medicine at Case Western Reserve University published this important breakthrough in 2017 at the conclusion of their study.
Healthcare providers have a primary responsibility of treating disease and managing pain effectively, leading them to be more inclined to provide the prescription that will give the most pain relief after oral surgery in the worst-case scenario. Since the patient is just out of surgery when the prescription is being written, he or she is still numb and not in pain.
The efficacy of acetaminophen and ibuprofen in combination as an alternative to opiate based-pain medications following oral surgery allows dentists and oral surgeons to evaluate their patient’s pain level and prescribe this alternative therapy for many of their patients.
However, opioid-based pain relievers may be the only option for approximately 20% of patients who either cannot take NSAIDs, or whose recovery plan may require a more intense prescription regimen.
In addition to prescription medication, patients are given postoperative instructions for home care that must be followed to ensure the optimum outcome. Lifestyle habits, such as smoking or alcohol consumption, may increase the risk of postoperative infection and pain.
“Because of the safety and efficacy of NSAID analgesics, unless contraindicated, they should continue to be our primary agents for managing postoperative pain,” says Dr. Paul Moore, professor of Pharmacology and Dental Anesthesiology and Dental Public Health from the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh (Moore).
Communicate with your doctor about your health history, your concerns, and your questions before moving ahead with a surgical procedure. It could lead to a more personalized approach from your dentist!