At Rice Dentistry, we are very determined to give our patients the best possible experience from their dental visits, and that includes helping their visits be as comfortable as possible. We often get the question from patients, “Can I take ibuprofen before getting a cavity filled?” The simple answer being “of course”!
Ibuprofen works as effectively to prevent discomfort as it does to treat it, making it very good for eliminating minor discomfort during routine visits. Of course, if you need some type of reconstructive dentistry such as a filling or crown, you’ll be given local anesthesia.
How Ibuprofen Works
Ibuprofen is a miracle of modern drug development. It was invented by Dr. Stewart Adams, who confessed that he took his experimental drug to cure a hangover before it had been tested. Dr. Adams had been working on the drug for ten years, and in that time he had actually taken several different experimental drugs (he says they always tested for toxicity first). Four had even gone to clinical trials and failed.
But he knew he had a winner when he took a 600 mg dose (the equivalent of three typical tablets) for a hangover in 1961, and it got rid of his hangover headache so he could deliver an important speech. So they sent 2-(4-isobutylphenyl) propionic acid to trial, and it succeeded and became known a ibuprofen.
The secret to ibuprofen is that it inhibits the function of two enzymes known as Cox-1 and Cox-2. These enzymes stop the process that links distress in your cells with pain signals and inflammation (swelling and other parts of your immune response). Without Cox-1 and Cox-2, the process stops, and you don’t feel pain or experience swelling.
The good news is that the enzymes are only temporarily disabled and they’ll return to function, so there’s no lasting damage.
How Ibuprofen Improves Your Dental Visit
Ibuprofen can make your dental visit more pleasant because it cuts off the pain before it starts. This is more effective than treating the pain after it begins because pain tends to magnify itself, increasing in intensity once the chain reaction begins.
Ibuprofen’s other property as an anti-inflammatory is also useful. Inflammation is very problematic for teeth. When the tooth pulp begins to swell, it pushes against the hard walls of the tooth. With nowhere to go, the swelling increases pressure in the tooth, which irritates the nerve and causes pain.
What can cause this discomfort in your tooth from a routine dental visit? Some people are sensitive to the scraping of tartar, especially if the ultrasonic scaler is used. The vibrations from the scaler can penetrate into the tooth, causing irritation, which leads to inflammation.