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Pharmacology Supporting Your Practice

Three Drug Classes Every Dental Professional Should Know!


It’s always an honour to meet with Dr. Mark Donaldson, Pharmacologist and senior Executive Director at Vizient Inc. Part of our monthly conversations, Mark spoke about the three drug classes that every dental professional should know: antimicrobials, analgesics, and local anesthetics. I hope you find the interview informative. 

Chiraz Guessaier, CDA Oasis Manager


  • Oral healthcare professionals (OHCPs) are routinely involved with the selection and prescription of medications for their patients. This course is designed to help them become better-informed prescribers of the top three drug classes employed in dentistry: antibiotics, analgesics, and local anesthetics.
  • Patient safety is the number one concern.
  • There are only three major uses of antimicrobial agents in the practice of dentistry: prophylaxis in patients with compromised immune systems caused by certain diseases or medications, prophylaxis in patients at risk for developing infective endocarditis, and treatment of an acute dental infection (Goodchild & Donaldson, 2009).
  • Although OHCPs are required to stay current with published guidelines because they represent standards of care, the evidence in support of these recommendations can be controversial.
  • The practice of overprescribing antibiotics in certain medical and dental situations, as well as development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, could be greatly abated with closer attention to basic prescription-writing principles.
  • Analgesic medications in dentistry are indicated for the relief of acute pain, postoperative pain, and chronic pain, and for controlling adjunctive intraoperative pain (pain not associated with the dental procedure). In addition, these medications can be given preoperatively (preemptively) to mitigate both postoperative pain and postoperative pain medication requirements.
  • While acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are typically the medications of choice for dental pain, narcotic-containing medications should be reserved for the small percentage of dental patients with severe pain.
  • Overprescription practices and inappropriate prescribing in certain medical and dental pain situations have led to a growing problem of prescription drug abuse.
  • Local anesthetics administered preoperatively help mitigate pain and improve patient comfort as well as clinical outcomes, making them an integral part of dental practice.
  • Excellent intraoperative pain control with the appropriate selection and dose of local anesthesia will set both the OHCP and patient up for success, especially when combined with an appropriate postoperative analgesic medication.
  • The variety of local anesthetics available, whether combined with a vasoconstrictor or as a plain solution, offer unique pharmacological properties that allow the practitioner to tailor therapy to the individual and match the best drug to the specific patient and clinical situation.

Dr. Donaldson has kindly agreed to make the entire document of this course available to our Oasis viewers and readers. The course material is provided for information only and does not imply that our readers and viewers must take the course. Thank you. 

Three Drug Classes Every Dental Professional Should Know: Antibiotics, Analgesics, and Local Anesthetics (PDF)



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