Dental Dose: Painkillers and COVID-19 vaccines

By Theresa Pablos, DrBicuspid.com editor in chief

April 16, 2021 -- Dental Dose is a new twice-monthly video series featuring pharmacologist Tom Viola, RPh. In each episode, Viola shares bite-sized pieces of dental pharmacology news, facts, and myths.

A patient comes in for dental work. He got the COVID-19 vaccine yesterday. What do you do?

"It's a Catch-22," said Tom Viola in the latest episode of Dental Dose.

While dentistry relies on a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen to treat most types of dental pain, using these kinds of painkillers might actually dampen the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

"As of today, the thought process is that by taking those medications on or around vaccine administration, you can actually lower the immune response," Viola said. "You can actually sort of make the vaccination work a little less than optimal."

Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines elicit an immune response that kicks your immune system into high gear. When that happens, it can cause side effects, such as fever, chills, body aches, and pain -- symptoms often treated with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Viola advises telling patients to wait four to seven days before taking a pain reliever. But that may not be as feasible for someone who just showed up in your dental office for treatment. In that case, Viola suggests reaching out to the patient's medical professionals and asking for their input.

"It's another good reason to reach out to our medical partners and say, 'You know, this patient just got their vaccination the other day. They're coming in for dental work today. I know there is going to be some postoperative pain. What do you suggest?' " Viola said.

Listen to more of Viola's advice regarding COVID-19 vaccines in the video below.

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Disclaimer: This video was recorded on April 6. Information regarding vaccines may have changed since the recording date.

Do you have a topic idea for Dental Dose? We'd love to hear it: Please share your thoughts with the team.


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