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What to know about common drugs and dental treatment

April 5, 2024
Every year, more than 4 billion prescriptions are dispensed. Do you know exactly what meds your patients are taking and how they might affect dental treatment? Here are some common drugs you may encounter and advice for when you do.
Vicki Cheeseman, Associate Editor

When you went to dental school, you may not have realized how much you’d need to know about common drugs patients take and their interactions with dental treatment. As the years go by and more medications are being developed, taking complete medical histories to learn exactly what drugs your patients are using becomes ever more critical before you embark on treatment.

A look at the statistics

More than 20,000 drugs have been approved for marketing by the FDA.1 In 2021, more than half of US adults were routinely taking prescribed drugs.2 The growth of the prescription drug market is ever-increasing. Prescription drug expenditures reached $335 billion in 2018, and that number is projected to hit $875 billion by 2026.3 Every year, more than 4 billion prescriptions are dispensed.4 And COVID-19 boosted prescription drug use even further.4

The medications your patients are taking for various existing conditions may be completely appropriate, but when you add other drugs used during dental treatment into the mix (like anesthetics, analgesics, and anxiolytics), the potential for adverse drug interactions becomes real.

Here are links to our best content about some of the common drugs your patients may be taking, as well as considerations to make before you administer treatment. Dr. Pamela Maragliano-Muniz, chief editor of Dental Economics, and pharmacist Tom Viola share their expertise on these pharmaceuticals.

Drug interactions

Being on the alert for how drugs interact with other drugs is an important part of keeping patients safe. But foods and supplements can interfere with some medications as well.

Drug interactions 101


What do you usually prescribe for patients who have TMJ pain or severe toothaches? Are steroids your go-to? What are the best choices for dental inflammation?

The good and bad of steroids


Gabapentin is a widely used anticonvulsant and nerve pain medication that has attracted some controversy.

Why would a dentist prescribe gabapentin anyway?


There are some surprising ways epinephrine can benefit dental patients. Here’s a look at the pros and cons and why medical critiques of epi’s use in dentistry are often short-sighted.

A love-hate relationship with epinephrine

Counterfeit drugs

Your patients could be taking counterfeit drugs that you aren’t aware of—all of which can affect your dental treatment. The key is to ask the right questions.

What to know about faux Xanax and other counterfeit drugs

Sulfa allergies

Sulfa, sulfite, and sulfur may sound alike, but the similarity ends there. When you have patients with allergic reactions to sulfa drugs and sulfites who can’t have articaine as a local anesthetic, consider these things.

Sulfa allergies, sulfite allergies, and local anesthetics


As the percentage of Americans struggling with obesity increases, so has the demand for weight-loss drugs like Ozempic. But there are dental implications you need to know.

Ozempic and dentistry

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Clinical Insights newsletter, a publication of the Endeavor Business Media Dental Group. Read more articles and subscribe.


  1. FDA at a glance. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. January 2024. Accessed April 5, 2024. https://www.fda.gov/media/175664/download
  2. Fleck A. More than half of Americans take prescribed meds daily. Statista. November 6, 2023. Accessed April 5, 2024. https://www.statista.com/chart/31183/us-respondents-who-are-taking-prescribed-medicine/
  3. Americans take prescriptions a large portion of their lives. U.S. Pharmacist. October 25, 2023. Accessed April 5, 2024. https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/americans-take-prescriptions-a-large-portion-of-their-lives
  4. Prescription drug statistics 2024. The Checkup by SingleCare. Updated November 29, 2023. Accessed April 5, 2024. https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/prescription-drug-statistics

Vicki Cheeseman is an associate editor in Endeavor Business Media's Dental Group. She edits for Dental EconomicsRDH, Perio-Implant Advisory, DentistryIQ, and Clinical Insights.