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Dental Medications: Get Facts on Pain Pills and Antibiotics

Your dentist may prescribe medications to fight certain oral diseases or to
prevent infections after surgical procedures such as tooth extractions and gum
surgery. Sometimes certain drugs are given prior to the dental procedure to
help fight infections or to control existing medical conditions such as heart
murmurs and valve problems. Your dentist will discuss any medications you may
need to take, when to take them, and why you need to take them.

Questions to Ask Your Dentist About Your Medication

  • What is the name of the medication?
  • Why do I need to take it?
  • How often should I take it?
  • What time of day should I take it?
  • Should I take it on an empty stomach or with meals?
  • Where should I store the medication?
  • What should I do if I forget to take a dose?
  • How long should I expect to take the medication?
  • How will I know it is working?
  • What common side effects should I expect?
  • Are there any rare, but serious side effects to watch for?
  • Will the medication interfere with driving, working or other activities?
  • Does the medication interact with any foods, alcohol or other beverages, or other medications, vitamins, supplements, over-the-counter products, herbal products, or eye drops?

Review the medication information sheet that comes with each prescription.
Write down any side effects you experience and call your dentist to discuss
them. Update and review your history every time you see your dentist.

Facts to Tell Your Dentist About Yourself

  • If you are taking any other medications, supplements, vitamins, herbal products, over-the-counter products, eye drops, or prescription skin lotions.
  • If you are allergic to any medications.
  • If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant.
  • If you have problems taking any medications.
  • If you have any health-related problems or medical conditions, especially any serious conditions that affect your body’s major organs — the kidneys, lungs, heart or liver.

Safety Guidelines for Taking Medications in General

  • Keep an updated list of all your medications and their dosages with you.
  • Take your medications exactly as prescribed.
  • Do not stop taking your medications unless you talk to your dentist first. Stopping your medication too early can cause the illness to return or make it more difficult to treat.
  • Do not double the dose of your medication.
  • If you miss a dose of your medication at the scheduled time, don’t panic. Take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and return to your regular medication schedule.
  • Do not keep outdated medication or medication that is no longer needed. Throw old medicines away.
  • Store medications in a dry area away from moisture (unless your dentist or pharmacist tells you the medicine needs to be refrigerated).
  • Always keep medications out of the reach of children.
  • Contact your dentist immediately if you experience any unusual side effects after taking your medication.
  • Do not share your medications with others.
  • If you store your medications in a container, label it with the medication name, dose, frequency and expiration date.
  • Anticipate when your medications will be running out and have your prescriptions renewed as necessary.
  • Use one pharmacy if possible.
  • Keep your medications in your carry-on luggage when you travel. Do not pack your medications in a suitcase that is checked, in case the suitcase is lost.
  • Take extra medication with you when you travel in case your flight is delayed and you need to stay away longer than planned.

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Dentistry.

Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, February 2003, WebMD.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2003


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