Oral & Vision Health Blog

Common Dentist Drugs and When They’re Used

Common dentist drugs and why you might need them.

Key takeaways: 

  • Regular dental care is essential for healthy teeth and gums
  • Gum disease can cause severe health conditions 
  • Dentist drugs like nitrous oxide, anxiety medications, and anesthetics are given for a variety of reasons. 
  • It is your dentists' responsibility to explain what drugs they give you, the side effects, and if they interact with other medications you take (make sure to get this information)

Your dentist could prescribe different drugs depending on what you are in the chair for. It is normal to be given drugs such as local anesthesia to fill a cavity. Whereas a more substantial medication will be given for invasive procedures. This could be general anesthesia, nitrous oxide, or intravenous sedation. 

Some dentist drugs can cause adverse reactions when mixed with medications you are already taking. That is why it is essential to ensure you know what drugs your dentist is using. Even if it is a simple procedure like filling cavities. Here we will explain what drugs are frequently used in dentistry, their purpose, and their side effects. It will allow you to make informed decisions for your future dental care.

The importance of oral health

Regularly going to the dentist is essential for healthy teeth and gums. While not the most enjoyable activity, it is also crucial for your overall health. 

What is the connection? 

  • First, your mouth contains a lot of bacteria. 
  • Second, your mouth is the gateway to your other organs and systems, such as your digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems. 

Your body’s natural defenses work hard to eliminate bacteria and other harmful substances. Daily brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups help keep bacteria under control. Neglecting oral hygiene can lead to oral infections, tooth decay, and gum disease. 

How gum disease can be dangerous

You notice your teeth and smile regularly. But you probably do not think about your gums. By taking care of your gums, you are keeping your teeth in place and preventing inflammation from bacteria. Neglecting your teeth allows an infection to grow under the gums, leading to periodontal (gum) disease.

Gum disease and other conditions

Gum disease, if left untreated, can cause other severe conditions and diseases, such as:

Endocarditis: An infection that affects the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves. It can be caused by bacteria traveling from the mouth through the bloodstream to the heart.

Cardiovascular disease: Some studies suggest that heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke may be linked to oral bacteria and the infections they cause in the mouth.

Pneumonia: If bacteria in the mouth travels to the lungs, it can damage the lining and cause pneumonia or other respiratory diseases. 

Pregnancy and birth complications: If you’re pregnant or thinking about having a baby, you should know that periodontitis has been linked to low birth weight and premature birth. 

Why dentists use medications in patient care

Your dentist should tell you what medications they are using, what they are designed to do, and list possible side effects. Even over-the-counter medicines can have harmful interactions with dental drugs.

We will look at some of these categories more closely and explain when certain dentist drugs are used. 

Numbing and sleep procedures

Local anesthesia can be injected directly into a specific area in your mouth and gums (local anesthesia) for dental repair work like fixing cavities, root canals, or removing wisdom teeth. It can be inhaled as gas to help you relax or even put you to sleep. During oral surgery procedures, such as removing impacted wisdom teeth and preparing teeth for bridges, dentures, or dental implants. 

Pain relief

Dentists often recommend several types of prescription and over-the-counter medications for pain, inflammation, infections, sores, and abscesses. They include drugs like ibuprofen, analgesics like acetaminophen (Tylenol®), or topical medications to help you feel better faster.


Nitrous oxide (also called laughing gas) is an odorless, colorless gas used to relax patients during dental procedures. You feel the effects almost immediately. However, you are still awake and can respond to instructions from the dentist. 

It is one of the most common drugs dentists use and is safe for most people. It can cause people to become giggly or confused (hence the nickname “laughing gas”). It can also cause mild euphoria, so you feel surprisingly good (at least until it wears off). 

Reducing inflammation

Anti-inflammatories can help relieve swelling and pain after oral surgery. The most common type is corticosteroids. This medication is available with a prescription, although you can also find non-prescription anti-inflammatories such as Motrin® and Advil.

Plaque and gingivitis control

Chlorhexidine (PeridexTM) is an anti-bacterial mouth rinse that helps eliminate plaque and treats gingivitis in the oral cavity. This can alleviate pain due to periodontal disease or be taken after a dental procedure.

Chlorhexidine can cause buildup of tartar. This stains the teeth or causes yellowing. Using a tartar-control toothpaste and flossing every day can help with this. 

Preventing decay

Fluoride has been used to prevent tooth decay since the early 1900s. Today, most people have it in their toothpaste. Fluoride is absorbed by the teeth, helping to strengthen them against acids that would otherwise wear away at the enamel over time. It also helps stop cavities from forming by destroying bacteria while protecting hot/cold sensitivity.

Note on Fluoride precautions

Some people are sensitive to fluoride. So talk with your dentist before using products containing it. You should also let your dentist know if you have allergies or sensitivities to fluoride, tartrazine, or any other drugs. 

Fluoride may also be a concern if you take iron supplements, calcium, or magnesium, or if you are on a low sodium or sodium-free diet. You should avoid dairy products one hour before and after using fluoride. 

Dry mouth

This occurs when the mouth fails to produce enough saliva. Dry mouth may occasionally happen due to dehydration. But it can also be a chronic condition that requires treatment to alleviate symptoms and protect your mouth, teeth, and gums.
Dentists often prescribe a medication called pilocarpine (Salagen®), which stimulates saliva production. Specialized mouth rinses and toothpaste may also help alleviate your symptoms.

Solstice dental coverage 

Solstice offers custom dental insurance solutions and discount dental plans. Contact us for a consultation or to learn more about our health and wellness plans. Solstice dental plans offer quality, affordable dental care at prices you can smile about.

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