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Drugs Used in Dentistry

There are a number of different drugs your dentist may prescribe, depending on your condition. Some medications are prescribed to fight certain oral diseases, to prevent or treat infections, or to control pain and relieve anxiety.

Here you will find a description of the most commonly used drugs in dental care. The dose of the drugs and instructions on how to take them will differ from patient to patient, depending on what the drug is being used for, patient's age, weight, and other considerations.

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Even though your dentist will provide information to you about any medication he or she may give to you, make sure you fully understand the reasons for taking a medication and inform your dentist of any health conditions you may have.

Drugs to Control Pain and Anxiety

Local anesthesia, general anesthesia, nitrous oxide, or intravenous sedation is commonly used in dental procedures to help control pain and anxiety. Other pain relievers include prescription or nonprescription anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and anesthetics.

Anti-inflammatory drugs

Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that are used to relieve the discomfort and redness of mouth and gum problems. Corticosteroids are available by prescription only and are available as pastes under such brand names as Kenalog in Orabase, Orabase-HCA, Oracort, and Oralone.

Your dentist may recommend a nonprescription anti-inflammatory drug -- such as Motrin -- to relieve mild pain and/or swelling caused by dental appliances, toothaches, and fevers. Tylenol may also be given.

Note: Unless directed by your dentist, never give infants and children aspirin.

Anesthetics

Dental anesthetics are used in the mouth to relieve pain or irritation caused by many conditions, including toothache, teething, and sores in or around the mouth (such as cold sores, canker sores, and fever blisters). Also, some of these medicines are used to relieve pain or irritation caused by dentures or other dental appliances, including braces.

Anesthetics are available either by prescription or over-the-counter and come in many dosage forms including aerosol spray, dental paste, gel, lozenges, ointments, and solutions. Dental anesthetics are contained in such brand name products as Ambesol, Chloraseptic, Orajel, and Xylocaine.

Note: The FDA has issued a warning to consumers about the use of benzocaine, the main ingredient in over-the-counter liquids and gels used to reduce teething pain in very young children. Benzocaine is associated with a rare but serious condition called methemoglobinemia, which greatly reduces the amount of oxygen carried through the bloodstream. The FDA says benzocaine products should not be given to children younger than age 2 unless under the supervision of a health care professional.

Also, because the elderly are particularly sensitive to the effects of many local anesthetics, they should not use more than directed by the package label or the dentist. Anesthetics used for toothache pain should not be used for a prolonged period of time; they are prescribed for temporary pain relief until the toothache can be treated. Denture wearers using anesthetics to relieve pain from a new denture should see their dentist to determine if an adjustment to the appliance is needed to prevent more soreness.

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How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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