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an article by
Valentina Tkachenko
(visitor contribution)
Commonly Used Drugs
Benzocaine is a commonly used local anesthetic which is the active ingredient in several over-the-counter numbers and anesthetic ointments such as Anbesol, Kank+a, Orabase B and Orajel due to its efficacy as a topical pain reliever. When combined with antipyrine, benzocaine can form A/B Otic Drops (sold as Auralgan) which are used to relieve earache and remove wax build-up. The drug works by acting as a chemical barrier, preventing sodium from entering free nerve endings and stimulating the nerve by causing depolarization resulting in an action potential.


Without these chemical signals, there is nothing for the brain to interpret as pain or any other sensation on the affected area. Allergic reactions occasionally occur, and in more serious cases methemoglobinemia can develop – a disorder which consists of elevated methemoglobin (oxidized hemoglobin that has very little affinity for oxygen) levels in the blood. This results in poor oxygenation of tissues, sometimes leading to hypoxia.

Chlorhexidine is a chemical antiseptic which is effective against bacteria, fungi, and enveloped viruses. The drug is used in very low concentrations in contact lens solutions, acne washes, surgical scrubs, and as a preservative or treatment for athlete’s foot. Chlorhexidine’s dental application is usually as an active ingredient in mouthwash due to its ability to fight dental plaque, oral bacteria, and halitosis. However, chlorhexidine alone is not enough to fight cavities and is therefore often paired with other ingredients such as fluoride.

Prolonged use can lead to stained teeth, in particular resin restorations, and can temporarily alter taste sensation. Due its neutralization by common toothpaste ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium monofluorophosphate, it is recommended that an interval of one to two hours separate tooth brushing and rinsing with chlorhexidine. Contact with the eyes and nose should be avoided to prevent damage.

Fluconazole commonly sold as Diflucan or Trican, fluconazole is used to treat and prevent fungal infections. One of the uses of fluconazole is to combat the Candida genus of yeasts which are known to cause thrush, or denture stomatitis, even when other drugs have failed. Nursing mothers are recommended to seek alternative treatment due to the fact that fluconazole is secreted in human milk at concentrations similar to plasma. Pregnant women are also advised to be cautious with the drug because in testing several congenital abnormalities manifested if the mother was treated with high doses of the drug for a period longer than three months.

Ketoconazole is sold as the brand name Nizoral, and is another antifungal antibiotic used to treat infections of the mouth, throat, esophagus, lungs, bladder, or skin. Ketoconazole is often used in patients who are immunocompromised, such as those suffering from AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy. Nizoral in particular is available as an anti-dandruff shampoo, a topical cream, and an oral tablet. Absorption is aided in acidic environments, so it is often recommended that ketoconazole be taken with an acidic beverage such as Coca-Cola, and that antacids be avoided during treatment. Ketoconazole can be used to cure athlete’s foot, ringworm, candidiasis, and jock itch. A side-effect of the drug is that it causes a drop in testosterone levels, which makes it useful for treating prostate cancer and preventing erections following penile surgery. Cushing’s disease is also treated due to the depressive effect the drug has on glucocorticoid synthesis. Veterinarians commonly prescribe this medication for pets suffering from fungal infections, and the shampoo has even been shown to be beneficial to men suffering from hair loss.

Fluoride is an essential mineral for healthy teeth which occurs naturally in water and many foods. As plaque builds on teeth during the day, minerals are lost form the tooth enamel and unless they are promptly replaced, tooth decay can occur. Fluoride can reverse early decay and makes teeth more resistant to acid damage. Children under the age of six also need a solid foundation of fluoride which is incorporated into permanent teeth. Nearly all toothpastes contain fluoride as do mouthwashes and tap water in most major cities (including New York). A stronger dosage is available via prescription from a doctor or dentist in the form of a tablet or an oral rinse. Dentists in particular can supply fluoride in the form of a gel, foam, or varnish applied directly to the teeth. Patients suffering from xerostomia, gum disease, or a history of frequent cavities can most benefit from additional fluoride, as can patients who have crowns, bridges, or braces.

Acyclovir is a guanosine analogue antiviral drug which is sold as the brand names Cyclovir, Herpex, Acivir, Acivirax, Zovirax, Aciclovir and Zovir among others. Its primary use is for the treatment of HSV infections known as cold sores as well as shingles and acute chickenpox in immunocompromised patients. The drug can be dispensed as a tablet, topical cream, intravenous injection, and ophthalmic ointment. Creams and ointments are usually reserved for labial sores with few side effects.

Valacyclovir is another antiretroviral used to manage the herpes simplex virus and herpes zoster virus (shingles). The brand names of valacyclovir are Valtrex and Zelitrex, with a generic alternative introduced in late 2009. Common side effects are the same as for acyclovir, its active metabolite, and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headache. More serious side-effects are extremely rare and include coma, seizures, hepatitis, anaphylaxis, and anorexia.

Lysine is an essential amino acid which is necessary for human health but cannot be produced in the body and must be obtained from food. Lysine is one of the critical components for proteins and is therefore important for proper growth, proper calcium absorption, and collagen formation. Some recent research has shown that taking large doses of lysine on a regular basis can prevent outbreaks of cold sores and genital herpes. In addition to being naturally found in foods such as meat, cheeses, nuts, eggs, fish, soybeans, legumes, diary, and beans lysine can be bought as a supplement in tablet, cream, capsule, or liquid form. Lysine supplements are available at most pharmacies and health food stores.

Dexamethasone Elixir is used for treating conditions which cause decreased adrenal gland function and severe inflammation including asthma, severe allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, certain blood disorders, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and certain eye and skin conditions. It works by reducing tissues’ susceptibility to inflammation and modifies the body’s response to certain immune stimulation. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments are given the medication in order to balance certain side-effects of the procedure.

Clobetasol propionate is a cream based corticosteroid medication which is used to treat skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis. In addition, it is an excellent remedy for contact with poison oak and poison ivy. The oral condition it is most useful in treating is lichen planus, in addition to alopecia areata and vitiligo. It is one of the most potent corticosteroids, making it highly effective against many issues without severe side-effects. Burning, stinging, itching, dryness, or redness may occur upon first application but usually subside as the body becomes accustomed to the medicine. Pregnant and breast-feeding women are usually encouraged to find other options, and risks should be discussed with a licensed health professional.

Pain medications

Tylenol (Acetaminophen) is one of the most popular over the counter pain-relievers available over-the counter, is sold most widely as the brand-name Tylenol. Tylenol and comparable drugs work by changing the chemical perception of pain in the brain by blocking nerve receptors responsible for delivering messages of discomfort through the nervous system, and by cooling the body to relieve fever. The medication can be delivered as a tablet, capsule, drops, or liquid solution and can be taken with or without food. Patients are warned that taking more than the recommended dosage can lead to liver damage, and instructions on the packaging must always be carefully followed. Dentists often advise taking acetaminophen following a dental treatment in order to minimize any post-procedural discomfort, and the drug can be safely used for several days. Please tell your dentist, doctor, or pharmacist about any other medications in order to prevent adverse reactions.

Advil/ Motrin (Ibuprofen) is another common pain-reliever which is sold over-the-counter as Advil, Motrin, and several other brand names and generic alternatives. The medication is available as a tablet, chewable tablet, liquid suspension, or drops and can be taken every four to six hours as needed in order to provide fever or pain relief. It is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and as such may increase risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Common uses include treatment for arthritis, headaches, muscle aches, menstrual cramps, the common cold, backache, and toothache. Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be taken to treat the symptoms of a painful tooth while awaiting a dental appointment and after treatment in order to soothe discomfort after a dental procedure. Package instructions must be followed as overdose may produce negative reactions. Care must be taken when taking more than one medication, even over-the-counter, as two medications may have the same active ingredient leading to potential complications arising from overdose.

Aleve (Naproxen) is commonly sold as Aleve, Midol, or several other brand and generic names, is also a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and as such may increase risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The medications works by preventing production of a substance which causes pain, fever, and inflammation in the body. Due to these anti-inflammatory properties, naproxen is most commonly used to help patients manage the symptoms of various kinds of arthritis, but it can also be taken at six to eight hour intervals to relieve discomfort arising toothache or post-procedural pain. It can cause nausea in some patients and may be taken with food or milk in order to minimize queasiness. Package instructions must be followed and health-care providers should be told of any allergies or other medications.

Vicodin is a potent pain-reliever available only by prescription which consists of acetaminophen and hydrocodene, a narcotic pain-reliever. Hydrocodene can be habit-forming and patients are advised to take precautions both in using and securing the drug lest they or those around them begin abusing the substance. Vicodin should never be used by anyone other than the patient for whom it was originally prescribed. Due to its high acetaminophen content, Vicodin can cause liver damage if too much in ingested at one time. A common side effect is constipation, and patients should take care to drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day and increase their fiber intake during treatment in order to prevent discomfort from this symptom. Cessation after prolonged use may lead to withdrawal symptoms, and it is often recommended that patients gradually decrease their daily dose in order to minimize this effect. Vicodin is usually only prescribed after serious procedures such as oral surgery or complex medical procedures. It is relatively rare for a dentist to prescribe Vicodin for a simple tooth ache due to potential for addition or abuse. Do not take any other medications containing acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, simultaneously with Vicodin as this may pose a risk to liver function. Seek medical help if complications of dependent behaviors emerge.

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