Sublingual and Buccal Medication Administration

Written by Tricia Kinman
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on June 14, 2013

Sublingual and Buccal Medication Administration

Sublingual and buccal medication administration is a way of giving someone medicine orally (by mouth). Sublingual administration is when medication is placed under the tongue to be absorbed by the body. The word “sublingual” means “under the tongue.” Buccal administration involves placement of the drug between the gums and the cheek. These medications can come in the form of tablets, films, or sprays.

When Are Medications Administered Sublingually?

Your healthcare provider usually orders sublingual or buccal medications when there is a need for the medication to be absorbed rapidly. This type of medication may also be ordered if the effects will be lessened during the digestion process. The cheek and the area under the tongue have a lot of capillaries, or tiny blood vessels. This means that the medication can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream without needing to go through your digestive system.

Some drugs that are administered this way include:

  • cardiovascular drugs (nitroglycerin, verapamil)
  • steroids
  • certain barbiturates
  • enzymes
  • vitamins
  • some medications for mental health conditions

Advantages | Advantages

There are some benefits to taking a medication through the sublingual or buccal route. The medication can be absorbed quickly if there is an emergency and you need the medication to work right away—for example, during a heart attack.

Another advantage is that the drug does not go through the digestive system. This means the drug is not metabolized through the liver, and thus a lower dose can be used.

Placing the drug under the tongue or in the cheek for absorption can be easier on patients who have problems following a medication regime or for unconscious patients. According to research, sublingual medication administration is faster and more effective than simply taking oral medication (Narang & Sharma, 2011).

Risks

There are some risks to taking medications through the sublingual and buccal route. If you have been eating, drinking, or smoking, this can have an effect on how the medication is absorbed and how effective it is. Additionally, this method is not good if you have to take this medication over a longer period of time. Not every drug is available in sublingual or buccal forms.

In addition, if you have any open sores in your mouth, these can become further irritated by the medication.

How Is This Medication Administered?

Before you take the medication, be sure to let your healthcare provider know any other medications that you are taking. You should inform your provider if you have any open sores in your mouth or if you smoke.

You can either give yourself the medication or the medication can be administered by a healthcare professional. If it is administered by a professional, first he or she will wash hands and put on gloves. Be sure to let your provider know if you have an allergy to latex, as latex gloves are commonly used. Your provider will ask you to open your mouth and place the medication either under your tongue or between your gums and teeth. You should not drink, swallow, eat, or smoke while taking the medication. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider how long you need to wait before you can drink and eat again.

After Administering the Medication

After the medication is administered, your provider will probably record the time and give you further instructions. Sometimes you will have this medication administered several times.

Usually this treatment has few complications, but sometimes the medication can irritate the mouth. If this happens, tell your doctor or healthcare provider.

Your provider will probably want to make sure you have no negative reactions to the medication. Signs of an adverse reaction include hives or swelling. Your doctor should be contacted if you experience this type of reaction. Additionally, you should remove the tablet or film and rinse your mouth.

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Article Sources:

  • Bowden, V. R., & Greenberg, C. S. (2008). Pediatric nursing procedures (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Narang, N., & Sharma A, J. (2011). Review Article sublingual mucosa as a route for systemic drug delivery. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences3(Suppl 2), 15-22.

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