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Pharmacology is the study of drugs. Drugs are defined as any chemical substance that affects biological systems. Because many substances fit this description, the scope of pharmacology is extremely broad. It includes such things as over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin and acetaminophen; narcotic pain medications such as Demerol and Vicodin; vitamin supplements; local anesthetic agents; fluorides; and much more.  This course provides dental assistants with a broad overview of various categories of drugs and their implications for dental patients and treatment.

It is becoming more and more common for dental professionals to encounter patients who are taking a number of medications, many of which have oral side effects or some effect on the patient’s dental treatment. Since dental assistants often are the frontline health care workers who review medical histories with patients, they should be knowledgeable about the medications that a patient may need or may already be taking.

Although dental assistants do not prescribe drugs for patients, they should have a good understanding of the basic categories of medications and recognize their implications for dental treatment. Dental assistants also should be able to recognize side effects that may occur from certain medications and know contraindications for prescribing medications. Since many dental assistants are responsible for reviewing health histories with patients, knowledge of medications can be invaluable in alerting the treating dentist to situations that could affect the patient’s overall health.


Mary Govoni, CDA, RDA, RDH, MBA
 is an internationally recognized speaker, author and consultant on clinical efficiency, ergonomics, OSHA & HIPAA compliance, infection control and team communication.  Mary is a past president and a life member of the American Dental Assistants Association, a member of the American Dental Hygienists Association, a consultant to the American Dental Association Council on Dental Practice, a member of the Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures, the National Speakers Association, and the Academy of Dental Management Consultants and the Speaking and Consulting Network.  She is also a featured speaker on the ADA Continuing Education and lifelong learning seminar series.

Richard L. Wynn, PhD is Professor of Pharmacology at the Dental School, University of Maryland, Baltimore. He was awarded the BS, MS and PhD degrees all from the University of Maryland. He chaired the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Maryland Dental School from 1980 to 1995.  Previously he chaired the Department of Oral Biology at the University of Kentucky Dental School in Lexington. He has to his credit over 300 publications including original research articles, textbooks, book chapters, and monographs. He has given over 500 continuing education seminars to dental professionals in the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe.

Dr. Wynn has been a consultant to the drug industry for 25 years and his research laboratories have contributed to the development of new analgesics and anesthetics. He is a consultant to the Academy of General Dentistry, and is a featured columnist for the journal General Dentistry, published by the Academy of General Dentistry. He is the lead author and chief editor of Drug Information Handbook for Dentistry, now in its 17th edition, published by LexiComp, Inc. His chief interest is teaching pharmacology to dental and dental hygiene students, and in keeping dental professionals informed of current and new drug information relative to dental practice.


After completing this course, the dental professional should be able to:

• Differentiate between over-the-counter medications, nutritional supplements and prescription drugs.
• Identify the federal agencies that control distribution and prescription of drugs.
• List the types of drugs used in conjunction with dental treatment.
• Identify the types of drugs that are used to treat various medical conditions.
• Differentiate between a generic and a brand name prescription and non-prescription drug.
• Name the classes of drugs with known oral side effects.  
• Explain the pharmacological action of different classes of drugs.
• Describe the components of a drug prescription and the purpose of each.
• Recall the different schedules of drugs and the implications for prescribing and abuse.
• Recognize the classes of drugs that contraindicate dental treatment.
• Identify U.S. Food and Drug Administration Pregnancy Risk Categories for various drugs.
• Recite the current guidelines for antibiotic prophylaxis for dental treatment.
• Locate resources for obtaining information on over-the-counter and prescription drugs.


The ADAA has an obligation to disseminate knowledge in the field of dentistry.  Sponsorship of a continuing education program by the ADAA does not necessarily imply endorsement of a particular philosophy, product or technique.

The ADAA cautions participants taking this course on the hazards of using limited knowledge when integrating new techniques into their practices.

Credits earned upon completion of the course may be used to meet DANB’s Recertification Requirements.


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