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Dental Pharmacology

Fall Semesters Annually
Course Director: Vahn Lewis, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

Neurobiology and Anatomy > Courses > Dental Pharmacology

Course Description

Dental Pharmacology relates to the study of drugs commonly used in the treatment of dental disease. We will also study drugs primarily used in medicine, which fit in the same categories as dentally used drugs, when it is appropriate.

Fundamentals of Drug Action

Prior to studying the drugs used for dental disease, the basic principles of how the body responds to and reacts to administered agents will be discussed. This section is divided into sections: Pharmacodynamics; Pharmacokinetics; and Pharmacotherapeutics. The goal of this section is to provide a foundation of principles which will be applicable to all of the specific drug groups you will study later in the course.


This section provides information regarding the principles upon which antibiotic therapy is based. This includes the mechanism of action of, factors involved in the clinical effectiveness of, bacterial resistance to, adverse effects of, and clinical use of antibiotics, antifungal and antiviral agents. A goal is to provide information regarding the basic and clinical pharmacology of each of these major groups. You will learn which agents are used for treating specific acute dental infections and agents that are used to provide prophylactic coverage for patients at risk for dental-procedure-induced bacteremia and practice writing prescriptions for them.

Autonomic Drugs

The goal of this section is to extend your understanding of the autonomic nervous system into the realm of drugs which block or mimic actions of autonomic neurotransmitters. You will be treating patients who take medically-prescribed autonomic drugs and administering drugs which mimic or block autonomic function. This knowledge will help to prevent adverse drug interactions, to manage office emergencies, and to prescribe or administer autonomic drugs. This section will also provide a model for the action of other drugs acting on other neurotransmitter systems. Many of these topics will be further expanded upon in the third year where drugs for asthma, GI drugs and other CNS drugs are studied.

Pain and Anxiety Control

This part of the course is about some drugs used to treat dental procedure pain and anxiety. The goals will be for the student to become knowledgeable about the actions of these drugs, to select appropriate drugs for your patient, and to write safe, effective and legal prescriptions for these agents. A part of this section also provides information regarding the pharmacology of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs of abuse. This section will also form the basis for later studies of anesthesia.

Inflammation and Anti-inflammatory Drugs

This section provides a review of inflammation as a basis for presenting the pharmacology of those drugs used in the treatment of inflammation. The analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, glucocorticosteroids, other anti-inflammatory drugs and the histamine antagonists are discussed. This knowledge should provide the dental student and practitioner with sufficient information to select the appropriate dental treatment plan and recognize precautions which should be exercised for a patient taking these agents.

Anticaries and Antiplaque and Antiperiodontitis Agents

Various fluoride compounds have been reported to reduce or prevent dental caries but sometimes produce dental fluorosis. Therefore, the main thrust of this section will be the study of pharmacokinetics and toxicology of fluorides. A goal will be for students to be able to prescribe fluoride-containing products in simulated clinical cases. The health of periodontium is impacted by the presence of oral microflora and the ideal properties, problems and difficulties in the use of antiplaque, antigingivitis agents will also be discussed.

Prescription Writing

The goal of the dental pharmacology course is to instruct the student when and how to prescribe medications for your adult patients. For drugs obtained by prescription only, it is implied that special therapeutic knowledge is required for safe and effective use of the medication.


A course syllabus is not available online.

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