Are Dentists Overprescribing Acetaminophen?

Acetaminophen is a popular painkiller, used by millions of people on a regular basis.  But can overuse have detrimental effects?  How can dentists be sure they are not overprescribing acetaminophen?  Read on to find out.


 An active ingredient in more than 600 over-the-counter medications, acetaminophen is a regular part of countless people’s lives1.  It is especially common in the dental industry.  Dentists often prescribe it in combination with anti-inflammatory medications after surgery to help control pain.  And while it is safe in small, regulated doses, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that dentists should be cognizant of its potential side effects.


Most patients understand the need for caution when taking opioid based medications, either on their own or in tandem with additional treatments.  However, they display far less caution when dealing with over-the-counter drugs, considering them to be safe regardless.  And while this is generally the case, even common acetaminophen based medications such as Tylenol can be deadly in the event of an overdose2.


Excessive intake can lead to issues with the digestive system, including bloody stools and stomach pain/cramps.  There is also a risk of long-term damage to the liver and kidneys, especially amongst patients who regularly consume alcohol.  Many symptoms can be difficult to spot until they become serious, making excessive acetaminophen a genuine concern amongst dental and medical practitioners.


Dental professionals should make sure that their patients understand the risks that accompany painkillers.  It is common for patients to disregard suggested dosages and take as many pills as they want.  This behavior is of course, more likely after a painful dental procedure.  Nonetheless, the importance of proper intake should be emphasized thoroughly before and after the procedure.


Acetaminophen is widely accepted as safe for use in proper doses.  There is no reason to avoid it completely.  But like all painkillers, it does come with the potential for abuse.  Dental practitioners should always make sure patients understand the risks of any medication they are taking.


  1. Goodchild , Jason, and Mark Donaldson. “Acetaminophen: Is Too Much of a Good Thing Too Much?” Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry (Jamesburg, N.J. : 1995), U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2022,
    2.IBM Watson Health. “Acetaminophen (Oral Route, Rectal Route) Side Effects.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Apr. 2022,

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Article title: Are Dentists Overprescribing Acetaminophen?

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