John C. Chao, D.D.S.

Research Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC

(626) 308-9104

News & Press



Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil) in Combination Better Than One or the Other

For mild to moderate pain after surgery, patients are asked to take over-the-counter (OTC) pills. There are basically two kinds of OTC pills. One is represented by pain pills such as Tylenol and is called acetaminophen. The other is represented by Advil, and is called ibuprofen.

For quite some time now many doctors have advised their patients to take both acetaminophen and ibuprofen together, in the belief that taken together brings about more relief from pain than just taking one kind. However, it has not been strongly established that this is true. An article reviewing various studies involving a total of 1909 patients published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association has concluded that taking acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) in combination with ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) would be better for dental post-operative pain than taking only one or the other. In other words, if you take a Tylenol at the same time you taken an Advil, you would have better relief from pain from dental surgery than if you took just Tylenol or just Advil.

According to the author, Ferne Kraglund, D.D.S., these two kinds of over-the-counter pain pills “are widely available and inexpensive, with a well-established reputation for safety and efficacy (effectiveness).” This review of a number of very strident, scientific studies, called randomized clinical trials, involving these 1909 patients showed that the combination of these two kinds of drugs effectively lowers pain intensity and decreases the need for higher dosage or the addition of other supplementary drugs. Of course, you should only use these over the counter drugs at the direction of your dentist to make sure that in your particular case it is safe and effective. Just as importantly, you need to be instructed by your dentist as to how much and under what circumstances you should take or not take these drugs.

The FDA recommends certain limits as to strength and daily dosage of these drugs. For example, each tablet of acetaminophen should contain no more than 325 milligrams and the maximum dosage should not exceed 4000 mg per day. It is critical you follow your doctor’s instruction and contact your doctor in case of unusual reactions.


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