How to write a prescription: Guidelines for Dentists

Basic legal requirements of a prescription

  • Prescription should be written in ink or other unalterable electronic form.
  • Hand written prescriptions should be signed by the prescriber.
  • Clearly indicate the date of issue on the prescription.
  • Clearly indicate full name, address, professional qualification and professional registration number of prescriber.
  • Specify full name and address of patient, and if patient <12 years old, specify age or date of birth.
  • Hand writing should be legible.
  • Electronic prescriptions must be transmitted by the national electronic prescription transfer system (i.e. via a healthmail account).

Good practice points

  • Include prescriber’s contact phone number or email address on the prescription.
  • Prescribe using the generic drug name.
  • Do not use abbreviations.
  • State name of drug, dose, frequency, route and duration of treatment.
  • Include patient’s weight in kilogram (kg) on the prescription if < 12 years of age.
  • See section on further information on prescribing in children, including antibiotic dosing tables and weight-based dosing for paracetamol and ibuprofen in children.
  • In the case where a specific formulation is required e.g. a liquid preparation, this can be stated on the prescription.
  • In the case of preparations to be taken ‘as required’, specify a minimum dose interval and the total quantity to be supplied.
  • Avoid the unnecessary use of decimal points e.g. 3 grams should be written as 3g and not 3.0g, quantities of less than 1 gram should be written in milligrams e.g. 500mg, not 0.5g.
  • When decimals are unavoidable, a zero should be written in front of the decimal point where there is no other figure e.g. 0.5ml, not .5ml. It is advisable to avoid trailing zeros e.g. 0.50ml.
  • Check allergy status of the patient.
  • Check what other medicines the patient is taking, including non-prescription items, which may interact with the new medicine. See table on drug interactions for a summary of current best guidance or refer to the Summary of Product Characteristics via 
  • Check contraindications, potential side effects and caution in potential high-risk groups e.g. pregnancy/breastfeeding, elderly, children (refer to the Summary of Product Characteristics via or in a recognised formulary, such as the BNF for further details).
  • Advise patients to return to their dentist if their condition deteriorates, does not improve or if they develop any side-effects to the antimicrobial.
  • Respond promptly to a patient’s concern / adverse drug reaction (ADR). Any changes to medication should be clearly communicated to the patient and dispensing pharmacist.
  • In the event of a serious side effect, or any ADR to a newly authorised product, report it to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (see for downloadable ADR reporting form or can report on-line).
  • Draw a diagonal line across the blank part of the form under the prescription to prevent fraudulent alterations or additions being made.
  • Alterations are best avoided but if any are made they should be clear, unambiguous and endorsed with the prescriber’s signature.
  • Record prescription details in the patient’s notes.

Safe Prescribing (visit the safe prescribing page)

Reviewed November 2023

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