Safer choices for pain control after wisdom teeth removal.


Are you (or is someone you know) scheduled to have wisdom teeth removed? Pain after wisdom teeth removal is common, so dentists and oral surgeons may prescribe strong medicines that combine a common non-opioid pain medicine (such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin) with a stronger opioid pain medicine (such as codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone). Examples of such combination medicines are Lorcet Plus, Vicodin ES, Norco, Endocet, and Percocet, or generic equivalents of them. Opioids are effective in treating pain, but even short-term prescriptions can lead to dependence or addiction.

We received a report about a teen who was given a prescription for an opioid after removal of wisdom teeth. The teen’s parent was aware of the risks with opioid use and looked for safer options knowing that the pain would last for only a short time. The teen’s pain was managed using a non-opioid pain medicine called naproxen.

Here’s what you can do: Opioid use disorder, including dependence and addiction, is a big problem in the US and other countries. To reduce the risk of opioid-related problems, follow these tips to help relieve the pain that occurs after wisdom teeth removal.

• Start with non-opioid pain medicines like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Ask your dentist or pharmacist whether these medicines would work for you or your family member.

• Use non-drug pain treatments like ice and cold packs to reduce pain and swelling. Consider if distraction techniques like listening to music might be helpful.

•  If you need an opioid pain reliever, use it for less than 3 days. If you feel that the number of opioid doses prescribed for you is more than you need, talk to your pharmacist when you pick up your prescription. As you start to feel better, you should have less       pain and need less medicine. If you have leftover opioids after you have recovered, ask your pharmacist how to dispose of them.

• If the pain is still bothering you after a few days, contact your dentist or oral surgeon for advice.

For additional tips on how to manage pain after wisdom teeth removal, a new resource developed in Canada can be found at: Managing pain after wisdom teeth removal: Your questions answered (

Created on February 1, 2021

Medication Safety Alerts

FDA Safety Alerts

Show Your Support!

ISMP needs your help to continue our life saving work